This week US senator (D Connecticut) Chris Murphy pulled off a Big Day for the ages.
At 11:20 am on Wednesday — four days after the Orlando nightclub massacre — he stood up on the floor of the senate chamber and spoke out for gun control. And spoke And spoke. He talked for almost 15 hours — sometimes joined by fellow Democrats (and the odd Republican) who scrubbed in and out — before finally yielding the floor at 2:11 am, having got what he wanted: commitment from GOP leaders to hold a vote on key gun-control issues.
Now, you don’t talk for fifteen hours on an issue unless you feel pretty passionate about it, and this one was as close to the junior senator’s heart as any. It was in his state that the Sandy Hook shooting happened three and a half years ago. “I can’t tell you how hard it is,” he told the assembly, “to look into the eyes of the parents of those little boys and girls who were killed, and to tell them we’ve done nothing — nothing — at all.”
A filibuster is the purest expression of a Big Day any elected official can experience on work time. Unlike the usual daily business of government, where you peck away at issues without seeing any concrete results for months or years — if ever — the filibuster is a one-time only, boots-to-the-gas shot at making a difference. Like a hostage-taking or a dance marathon, filibustering can’t be done in fits and starts; it has to be executed in one big push. Under Senate rules, the moment you sit down you’re done — the pause button gets released, and the show goes on. Historically, the goal of the filibuster was to delay an important vote until nightfall, when by law government business had to be done for the day. Murphy vowed to hold the floor for “as long as I can,” and his almost-fifteen-hour effort proved the eighth-longest filibuster in the Senate since 1900. Murphy made a Big Day of it, and then some.
This really ought to be considered an endurance sport. If you’ve ever tried to stand in place for even an hour you can appreciate how crazily difficult what Murphy accomplished is. (He credited his stamina to the rehab work he’d done for a back injury in his twenties.)
Of course, it’s gotta help your motivation when the prime guy you’re opposing is Donald Trump.