5 Weird Things Done During Filibusters

On June 15, 2016, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy took to the Senate floor and launched a filibuster. His goal, according to Politico, was "to pressure Republicans to accept legislation that would deny suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and require universal background checks."

“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” Murphy said. The filibuster is being livestreamed; you can watch it here.

The filibuster has been a controversial maneuver for well over a century. Both Henry Clay and Woodrow Wilson were vocal critics of the filibuster, with the latter claiming that it often rendered the government “helpless and contemptible.” Say what you will about the parliamentary procedure, but American filibusters have certainly produced some unusual moments, including these.

1. ASSAULT WITH A SPITTOON // MARCH 4, 1917

Robert La Follette was an antiwar Republican from Wisconsin who orchestrated a joint filibuster divided between a dozen sympathetic senators, which began on March 3 and stretched into the next day, incensing their colleagues. At one point, La Follette lost his temper and had to be physically restrained from hurling a brass spittoon at Arkansas’ Joseph Robinson.

2. SOUTHERN COOKING 101 // JUNE 12, 1935

“I have prepared recipes for many celebrated Louisiana dishes … people up in this part of the country never have learned to fry oysters as well as we have done down our way,” Huey Long said on June 12, 1935. Dreading the possibility that his political rivals might land lucrative New Deal jobs, the Bayou State Democrat prattled on well into the next day, providing detailed instructions for cooking gulf coast delicacies in the process. His filibuster ended when he had to go to the bathroom.

3. PREPARING A PEE BUCKET // AUGUST 28, 1957

The longest filibuster in the history of the U.S. senate was delivered by then-Democrat Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. What was it that he so vehemently opposed for over 24 straight hours? The Civil Rights Bill of 1957. And if you think your internship is underpaid, get a load of this: After a procedural trick was used at 1 a.m. to allow Thurmond a few minutes for a bathroom break, his supporters were determined that this wouldn’t happen again. Instead, his staff had an intern hold a bucket inside a nearby cloakroom so Thurmond could urinate, if necessary, while keeping one foot on the Senate floor. The bill passed anyway, but Thurmond’s technique was imitated during a St. Louis city hall filibuster in 2001. When nature called mid-filibuster, Alderwoman Irene Smith’s assistants covered her with a sheet as she peed into a garbage can.

4. READING THE PHONE BOOK // OCTOBER 17, 1986

Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) nearly broke Thurmond’s record while stalling a military appropriations bill in 1986. Struggling to fill 23 and a half hours of speaking time, he resorted to reading aloud from the District of Columbia telephone book.

5. SINGING “SOUTH OF THE BORDER” // OCTOBER 5, 1992

Filibusters can be boring, so why not throw in a musical number? Six years after his first filibuster, D’Amato was at it again and chose to break out into song when he took the floor to denounce a proposed tax plan. This one only lasted a measly 15 hours and 14 minutes (at that time, the House adjourned for the year, and the tax bill that the filibuster was targeting died), but an eye-opening digression came when the Republican began singing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” to satirize the outsourcing of American jobs.

BONUS: READING DR. SEUSS // SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

Technically, Cruz’s lengthy tirade in 2013 wasn’t an actual filibuster because it had no procedural impact on the vote at hand. But the Texas Republican made headlines when he read Green Eggs and Ham during his 21-hour critique of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

A New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bobblehead Is Available for Pre-Order

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

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The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a devout champion for feminism and civil rights, and her influence stretched from the halls of the Supreme Court to the forefront of popular culture, where she affectionately became known as the Notorious RBG. Though there are plenty of public tributes planned for Ginsburg in the wake of her passing, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has a new RBG bobblehead ($25) available for pre-order so you can honor her in your own home.

There are two versions of the bobblehead available, one of Ginsburg smiling and another with a more serious expression. Not only do the bobbleheads feature her in her Supreme Court black robe, but eagle-eyed fans will see she is wearing one for her iconic coded collars and her classic earrings.

RBG is far from the only American icon bobblehead that the Hall of Fame store has produced in such minute detail. They also have bobbleheads of Abraham Lincoln ($30), Theodore Roosevelt ($30), Alexander Hamilton ($30), and dozens of others.

For more information on the RBG bobblehead, head here. Shipments will hopefully be sent out by December 2020 while supplies last.

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100 Years Later, the Story of Florida’s Ocoee Massacre—an Election Day Attack on Black Citizens—Is Finally Being Told

Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center
Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The bloodiest Election Day in the history of the United States is a story many Americans have never heard. On November 2, 1920, the day of the U.S. presidential election, a white mob attacked a Black neighborhood in the city of Ocoee, Florida. Now, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is being told in a new museum exhibition for its 100-year anniversary, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The exhibit, titled "Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920,” is now on display at the Orange County Regional History Center in Downtown Orlando. It examines what the museum calls "the largest incident of voting-day violence in United States history."

On November 2, 1920, a black labor broker named Moses Norman attempted to vote in what is now Ocoee, only to be turned away when he didn't pay the $1 poll tax. He returned later that day to attempt to vote again, and this time his persistence caught the attention of local Ku Klux Klan members.

Knowing his actions had provoked anger, Norman fled town. A mob of armed white men went to the home of his friend July Perry that night while searching for him. Perry, a fellow labor broker, was 50 years old and had been involved in civic activities like registering more Black citizens to vote. Sha’Ron Cooley McWhite, Perry's great niece, told the Orlando Sentinel that his bravery and activism likely made him a target for white supremacists.

July PerryCourtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The confrontation at Perry's home led to a shootout and ended with the mob capturing Perry and lynching him. The violence raged in the Black neighborhood throughout the night. By morning, the mob of 250 had burned down 22 homes and two churches and murdered dozens of Black residents.

Like many tragedies suffered by Black communities in U.S. history, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is not widely known. Poor record-keeping and intentional suppression of the news has left historians with an incomplete picture of exactly what happened that night. The Orange County Regional History Center had to collect land records, written reports, and oral histories to recount the event in depth.

"Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920” is on display at the Orange County Regional History Center now through February 14, 2021.

[h/t Orlando Sentinel]