Study Notes


AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A filibuster is a powerful parliamentary device that can be deployed in the Senate which can disrupt the passage of legislation and executive appointments

The Senate is unique in US Politics by having the power of unlimited debate. However, whilst this can be a good thing, it can be used to delay legislation and for political purposes. In order to disrupt the passage of legislation or appointments, Senators can filibuster a bill. This can be done by an individual or a group of Senators whereby they attempt to talk a bill to death. If a Senator can keep talking without stopping or leaving for the toilet, then they could kill off a bill. Notable filibusters have included Senator Strom Thurmond in 1957, he filibustered a Civil Rights Bill for 24 hours 18 minutes, or more recently Senator Rand Paul filibustering the appointment of John Brennan as CIA Director at 12hrs 52mins. Individual filibusters are normally unsuccessful; but, group filibusters can be more successful. However, if three fifths of the Senate vote to end a filibuster they can. This is known as a cloture motion.

Individual filibusters are now normally reserved for Senators who wish to engage in political point scoring. However, the filibuster is still used but in a different way. If the party in the majority has a majority that is less than 3/5 namely 60 seats, then the opposing party can threaten to filibuster on mass without having to engage in the talking. The threat of the filibuster is sometimes enough to delay legislation. A majority of 60 or more is said to be a Filibuster Proof Majority

Longest Filibusters since 1900

  1. 1 Strom Thurmond 1957: Civil Rights Act | 24:18
  2. 2 Alfonse D'Amato 1986: Defense Authorization Act | 23:30
  3. 3 Wayne Morse 1953: Submerged Lands Act | 22:26
  4. 4 Robert M. La Follette, Sr. 1908: Aldrich–Vreeland Act | 18:23
  5. 5 William Proxmire 1981: Debt ceiling increase | 16:12
  6. 6 Huey Long 1935: National Industrial Recovery Act | 15:30
  7. 7 Alfonse D'Amato 1992: Revenue Act | 15:14
  8. 8 Robert Byrd 1964: Civil Rights Act | 14:13
  9. 9 Rand Paul 2013: Confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the CIA | 12:52
  10. 10 Rand Paul 2015: Patriot Act | 10:31

Information taken from

Ted Cruz - Filibuster reading Dr Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

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