Just before noon on March 6, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, stood on the Senate floor and began speaking in opposition to John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director. He said that he planned to speak “for the next few hours”; 12 hours later, he was still talking.
This political maneuver is known as a “talking filibuster.” A filibuster allows a single senator to hold up business on the Senate floor — no votes can be taken and no bills introduced as long as the senator continuously holds the floor.
I know the game well. In October 1992, I waged my own memorable filibuster in defense of the Smith-Corona Company, located in the little town of Cortland, N.Y. My filibuster lasted 15 hours, 15 minutes.
You may remember that Smith-Corona was the last American company to make typewriters. In 1992, the company was considering moving to Mexico in order to compete against foreign companies who were under-pricing their product.
The CEO of Smith-Corona promised me that if Congress outlawed the circumvention of the anti-dumping laws that bar foreign companies from manufacturing components in one place, assembling the machines in another and then selling them in the U.S. at unfair prices, he would keep the factory in Cortland.
My Democratic colleague, Sen. Pat Moynihan, and I included the necessary amendment in a 1992 tax bill. But without consulting either of us, Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen killed the amendment, meaning that more than 800 jobs would now be leaving New York for Mexico.
Bentsen gave New York a good screwing with that chicanery. This was a rotten sellout of American jobs, and I was outraged. I took to the Senator floor ready for war!
I began my filibuster by reading the names of hundreds of people at Smith-Corona who would lose their jobs. Then I serenaded the Senate with my best versions of “South of the Border,” because that’s where the jobs were going, and “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” to get under Bentsen’s skin for killing my amendment.
I didn’t receive any kudos for my singing, but boy, did I enjoy myself.