What Was The Longest Filibuster Ever? Senator Chris Murphy Could Be On His Way To A Record
On Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut launched a filibuster to raise awareness of the need for gun control legislation. More than 14 hours later, Murphy still held the floor of the Senate and refused to yield it, permitting only intermittent interruptions in the form of questions from his fellow senators. Fourteen hours is a long time for one person to hold the Senate floor, but it's not the longest filibuster in U.S. history — that's a title dating back to the civil rights era.
Murphy's filibuster started just before 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday. He took the floor to delay a vote on a Senate spending bill, which he had hoped to add gun-related amendments to but feared wouldn't get a fair shot. At 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, Murphy still held the floor, as he recounted the stories of different victims of gun violence. "It doesn't have to be this way," he said.
At least 40 other senators joined Murphy in support of the filibuster, helping him to keep the debate alive by interjecting with questions and speeches of their own. As that 1:30 a.m. mark came and went, the filibuster showed few signs of slowing down, but it was still about 10 hours shy of a record.
The longest federal filibuster in U.S. history occurred in 1957, when Sen. Strom Thurmond stood for 24 hours and 18 minutes to prevent the passage of civil rights legislation. During that time, he read the Declaration of Independence, the federal criminal code, and laws from all states in order to pass the time. Throughout the entire filibuster, he took only one bathroom break, yielding the floor only momentarily.
Even still, a much more recent debate at the state level makes even Thurmond's filibuster look weak. In March, Missouri Democrats held the floor of their state senate for nearly 40 hours as they tried to block a bill that could have allowed discrimination of LGBT individuals. Another state filibuster, a 1977 debate in Texas, lasted 43 hours.
At the federal level, filibusterers may struggle to outdo Thurmond's 24-hour record because of the strict rules that apply. Although Thurmond took a quick bathroom break during his filibuster, most filibusterers don't get that opportunity. They aren't allowed to leave the Senate floor — and they aren't even allowed to sit down. Murphy continued for more than 14 hours without much relief, beyond the intermittent speeches by his fellow senators. He and those fellow senators also managed to stay much more on-topic than Thurmond and many other filibusterers in history.