My understanding is that filibusters in the US Senate are used to consume all the time allocated for a debate on a measure and thus forcing an eventual vote on a bill.

Some of the filibusters last longer than 8 hours. My question concerns the situation when a filibuster extends way past the work hours into the night hours or even early morning.

Who has to be present when a senator delivers a filibuster?

Are all senators present during this long speech that extends long into the night or most leave home and the President of the Senate remains?

Does the filibuster senator have to notify his/her fellow senators that he/she is planning to speak well into the dawn?

What if other senators had travel plans over night etc.?

While I understand (I think) the general idea and the procedure of a filibuster, I do not understand these little technicalities such as keeping the whole Senate well into the night.

1 Answer 1


Actually, the original purpose of a filibuster is to prevent a vote on the bill. At some times, a group would get together and pass the speaker's role to each other, to allow some rest.. Other times an individual will speak for as long as he can before giving up.


U.S. Politics.

the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a member of a legislative assembly to prevent the adoption of a measure generally favored or to force a decision against the will of the majority

Filibuster in the United States Senate

A filibuster in the United States Senate is a dilatory or obstructive tactic used in the United States Senate to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. The most common form of filibuster occurs when a senator attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a bill by extending the debate on the measure, but other dilatory tactics exist. The rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn"[1] (usually 60 out of 100 senators) bring debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.

While many times a Senator will speak to an empty chamber, he can call for a quorum which forces senators to appear for roll call. Additionally, quorum calls themselves can be used to delay matters. Also if the opposition is present during a filibuster, they can vote down the bill before the actual majority of for votes make it to the floor.

The intended purpose of a quorum call is to establish the presence of a constitutional quorum, but senators routinely use them to waste time while waiting for the next speaker to come to the floor or for leaders to negotiate off the floor. In those cases, a senator asks unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call. If a member objects, the clerk must continue to call the roll of senators just as is done with a vote. When a call shows no quorum, the minority can force another vote by moving to request or compel the attendance of absent senators

As an example

During the 1930s, Senator Huey Long used the filibuster to promote his populist policies. The Louisiana senator recited Shakespeare and read out recipes for "pot-likkers" during his filibusters, one of which occupied 15 hours of "debate".


One of the most notable filibusters of the 1960s occurred when southern Democratic senators attempted to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours, which included a 14-hour-and-13-minute address by Senator Robert Byrd. The filibuster failed when the Senate invoked cloture for only the second time since 1927.

  • 1
    It should be noted that Byrd later expressed regret for his part in that filibuster.
    – GreenMatt
    Jan 25, 2018 at 20:03
  • @GreenMatt That does not change what happened. Jan 25, 2018 at 20:19
  • I didn't say it did. However, as the statement stands, it impugns the late Senator without revealing all the facts.
    – GreenMatt
    Jan 25, 2018 at 20:34
  • @GreenMatt OK The statement was a direct quotation and was only intended to show what the filibuster was. Jan 25, 2018 at 21:48

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