The United States Senate has a long-standing policy of unlimited debate. That policy allows individual senators to “filibuster,” or to stand and talk endlessly about an issue. The word filibuster has its origin in a Dutch word meaning “pirate”. The filibuster provides a way for lawmakers to delay or block legislation. The loophole that allows the filibuster is credited to Vice President Aaron Burr, who in 1805 recommended dropping the “previous question” motion that provided a process to end debate on legislation. The House of Representatives was also once allowed unlimited debate until the number of representatives grew so large. The first successful filibuster was recorded in 1837 by a group of Whig senators who opposed President Andrew Jackson. At the onset of World War I, a 23-day filibuster prevented President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to arm merchant ships. In response to pressure from the president and the public, the senate adopted Rule 22. The rule authorized a two-thirds vote to invoke cloture, an official end to debate. Even with the new rule, filibusters remained an effective tool to block legislation as it was often difficult to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote for cloture. The record for longest individual speech goes to South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who fortified himself with throat lozenges and malted milk balls before speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. In 1975 the Senate changed its rules again, lowering the number of votes needed to end a filibuster to sixty.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution