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December 10, 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane ... It's a Filibuster

BernieHuffington* updated below *

Since the real Senate votes aren't scheduled until next week, Sen. Bernie Sanders' day-long speech doesn't officially qualify as a "filibuster," but that didn't stop Vermont's independent senator from capturing the imagination of the progressive blogosphere around 10:25 a.m.

You can watch Sanders on C-SPAN 2 live try to take apart the logic of giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

"When is enough enough? How much more do they need?" asked Sanders of the wealthiest taxpayers. "Whose bright idea was this? There are millionaires out there right now who are saying,'Thanks, but we don't need it.'"

Sanders challenged the notion that Democrats had to give up tax cuts for the wealthy in order to help working families.

"I don't accept that this is a great give," said Sanders in response to Pres. Barack Obama's claim that extending tax cuts is the only way to get unemployment benefits extended for people who are out of work. "Extending unemployment benefits has always been a bipartisan decision."

Sanders, an independent, has been giving a populist-tinged economics lesson since late morning taking only brief breaks to enjoin fellow Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in separate colloquies. A colloquy allows a senator to engage in a discussion with another senator without yielding the floor.

Earlier this week, Sanders threatened to do everything he could, including a filibuster, to kill a compromise tax cut deal brokered between Pres. Barack Obama and GOP leaders in Congress. Sanders opposes the tax cuts being extended to the wealthiest two percent of income earners. He'd rather see tax cuts solely focused on lower and middle-class taxpayers and more money invested in improving the nation's infrastructure such as roads, rail, bridges and broadband.

For Vermonters, Sanders' one-man, five-plus hour (as of this blog post) lecture is a condensed version of what we've heard from the self-styled socialist since he was first elected mayor of Burlington in 1981. In fact, he's been saying much of this since he ran as a Liberty Union candidate in the 1970s.

"The United States has the highest child povery rate of any industrialized nation," said Sanders. "Is this America?!" He also pointed out ways in which the take-home pay of middle-class taxpayers has shrunk over the past decade or more while those at the very top of the income ladder are making more money now than they did before the start of the recession.

Before heading to the floor, Sanders took to Twitter to tell his followers: "You can call what i am doing today whatever you want, you it call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech ..."

Sanders seemed to indicate he might keep talking right through the weekend, perhaps even the end of the year. "We have a job to do. And if it means staying here through Christmas Eve, that's what we will do," he noted.

It appears as Sanders' lone appearance on the Senate floor was aimed not at his colleagues — since most of them weren't even in the chamber as he spoke — but rather viewers at home. He wants them to call their Senators and urge them to vote against this tax cut package when it comes up for a vote next week.

Will it work? Maybe if the volume of calls to other senators' office match his.

His own office was inundated with thousands of phone calls. People who couldn't get through to his Washington office called his Vermont office and jammed phones there, too. Some people called in tears.

Of those calling, said Sanders, "98 to 99 percent are opposed to this tax deal."

For several hours during the day, both "Bernie Sanders" and "filibuster" were trending topics on Twitter, which means they were among the most discussed topics on the social media platform.

During the speech, Sanders hoisted flip charts and read passages from Arianna Huffington as well as Pres. Theodore Roosevelt.

Will Sanders continue to tap his inner Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and fight against the Willett Creek Dam, er, tax cuts? Stay tuned.

Bernie* Update *

Sanders officially called it quits at the eight hour, thirty seven-minute mark with this simple phrase: "And with that, Madam President, I would yield the floor."

After yielding the floor, Sanders presided over the Senate and brought the session to a close. Whether he'll offer a real filibusgter on Monday — a tactic Sanders has often criticized Republicans for using — remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen if Sanders' comments fueled enough calls to Senate Democrats and Republicans he hopes will join him in voting against the bill when it comes up for a vote next week.

As Sanders spoke, only taking a breather twice early on when Sens. Brown and Landrieu joined him in a colloquy, Sanders stood on his feet speaking the entire time. He read from several books, presented oversized charts and read testimonials from a booklet of stories his office collected from Vermontes (and folks around the country) about their experiences during the recession.

Columnist Will Bunch, of the Philadelphia Daily News, tweeted at the conclusion of Sanders' speech: "Tonight, we are all Socialists from Vermont."

Speaking of Twitter, Sanders gained close to 5000 followers during the day and was the top trending topic on Twitter in the United States, and rose as high as the second-ranking topic globally. His office was inundated with thousands of telephone calls and at one time so many people were streaming his speech via his Senate website that it crashed the chamber's video server. The entire speech was played on C-SPAN 2.

C-SPAN 2 has now posted the daylong speech in three parts:

Part one

Part two

Part three

After meeting briefly with reporters after his faux filibuster, Sanders was schedueld to catch a plane back to Vermont and land in Burlington later Friday night.

Here's a rundown of some of the coverage of Sanders' speech:

Los Angeles Times

New York Times

Washington Post



Huffington Post

Talking Points Memo


As one progressive fries in city hall another cooks on the senate floor.
While Bernie talks about buying food and gas, Kiss is choking on everything Bernie gave him.

As Bernie continues to berniebuster, Pres. Obama is forced to call In Pres. Clinton riding in on the white horse to help save Obama's plan. Politics sure makes strange bedfellows.
Meanwhile Jonathan says to Bob not tonight I have a hipache.

I shall now fillabuster this blog.
Everyone join in for the nest 8 hours and type in these words.
Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go.
Everyone join in now on this fillabuster.
Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go.
Come on everybody join in put your hands together, Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go.
Come on everybody its great typing practice, Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go.
Come on everybody bring your moms, your dads, your brothers and your sisters, Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go, come on everybody join in.
Repeat this for the next 8 hours and you will get the rythmn
Kiss and Leopold must go, Kiss and Leopold must go.

Didn't think Bernie was that great a mayor.... but as a Senator he is truly shining. Please let him know how much you support this even if our taxes do go up.
There are supposed to be high taxes during wars and crisis. Bush gave us two of each.

Please ask Sen Leahy to fully support this fillibuster. It's time for ethics and morals to stand up and get counted. Even you less affluent republicans should be able to get behind Bernie on this. Fill out a form-mail at his site.

Someone who only made 1.5 million last year will probably be able to get by with 1.2. and the cat that brought home 12, well how much less well off is he then this cat down the street who only cleared 19. Is that guy who only made just over ten mil this year really that much less happy then the guy who earned nearly twenty mil is? Write Bernie today..let him feel that love.

write bernie....tell him your tired of socialism.....

I am fully in line with Bernie's position on this issue, but by engaging in a filibuster, he's being the biggest hypocrite since the US Senate was invented. He has railed against the filibuster in the past and called it outrageous and immoral. In fact, he's on record as saying he'd like to abolish the filibuster procedure.

Ok, Bernie. We get it. You hate this tax deal. We agree with you. But now you're engaging in the very same parliamentary tactics that you've called outrageous and immoral.

Sit down and move on.


It's not a real filibuster. A filibuster delays the actual vote, is meant to block the vote, and block the opponent from actually doing anything; and generally the person speaking does so on a wholly unrelated topic.

There was no business scheduled that Bernie blocked, no votes, no other speakers. Bernie gave an eight-and-a-half hour speech, on topic, about an upcoming vote.

Go Bernie! Please try to get Federal workers our 1.4% raises back! While the rich will keep their tax breaks - and the wealthy bailed out bankers are making record profits this year - many of us who work in dangerous federal jobs (they do exist - and they are not all in the military) get insulted and short changed by President Obama and the Republicans.

Also, former Vermonter Steve Benen/Washington Monthly mentioned Bernie in the senate chamber today.

go bernie! go complain some more that those in power don't try to solve America's problems! O wait, your a US Senator and have been in Washington for 20+ years, oops, look whos a hypocrite!!

Bernie = multi-millionaire.

All acquired on the public teat.

Jay, I'm pretty sure Steve Benen is still a Vermonter.

Indeed, Steve remains a Vermont resident. He blogged about it today:

Talking for hours with no hope of accomplishing anything, sounds about right.

BTW I liked how he said he was going to go as long as he could, then sputtered out after 8.5 hours. Those normal-length working days are a bitch, eh?

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