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Chris Murphy’s 15-hour filibuster? It doesn’t compare to Strom Thurmond’s

Sen. Strom Thurmond demonstrates his agility at pushups as the South Carolina Republican celebrated his 65th birthday in his Washington office on Dec. 5, 1967.
Sen. Strom Thurmond demonstrates his agility at pushups as the South Carolina Republican celebrated his 65th birthday in his Washington office on Dec. 5, 1967.

Sen. Chris Murphy’s 15-hour filibuster, the eighth-longest in history, was impressive. Murphy’s talkathon, which ended at 2:11 Thursday morning, was also a reminder that the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history was delivered by a Carolinian: Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Thurmond was protesting the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes. No telling if Murphy could have gone another nine-plus hours, and his bladder is glad he didn’t have to try.

Murphy started his at 11:21 a.m. Wednesday and ended it at 2:11 a.m. Thursday after receiving assurances that Republicans would allow a vote on two gun-control measures. As required by Senate rules, Murphy stood on the Senate floor throughout, though 40 other senators helped him by taking the microphone and asking him (long-winded) questions.

Murphy showed stamina, but nothing like what Thurmond demonstrated beginning at 8:54 p.m. on Aug. 28, 1957. Thurmond read the voting laws of each state, the U.S. criminal code, the Declaration of Independence and a Supreme Court decision. In the end, he didn’t change a single vote for the bill, which passed.

Much has been made about how Thurmond could go more than 24 hours without relieving himself. He didn’t. His aides reportedly placed a bucket in the cloakroom that Thurmond used while keeping one foot on the Senate floor. He also took steam baths before the speech so that his body would absorb fluids.

Thurmond used the actual bathroom once during the filibuster. Sen. Barry Goldwater asked Thurmond to yield the floor so he could insert something into the Congressional Record. Thurmond ran to the restroom while he did.

When Rand Paul filibustered John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director in 2013, he was forced to quit after nearly 13 hours, unable to deny nature’s call. Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner memorably put it this way: “In the end, Rand Paul did not hate U.S.-citizen-targeted drone strikes as much as Strom Thurmond hated the idea of black people voting.” -- Taylor Batten

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