Senate of the United States
The Senate and Appropriations
The Appropriations Committee reviews budget requests from the president, solicits testimony from government officials, and drafts funding legislation that gets reported to the full Senate. The Senate then works with the House to pass all appropriations bills by October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
Filibuster and Cloture
Using the filibuster to delay or block legislative action has a long history. The term filibuster — from a Dutch word meaning “pirate” — became popular in the 1850s, when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill.
In the early years of Congress, representatives as well as senators could filibuster. As the House of Representatives grew in numbers, however, revisions to the House rules limited debate. In the smaller Senate, unlimited debate continued on the grounds that any senator should have the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue.
In 1841, when the Democratic minority hoped to block a bank bill promoted by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, he threatened to change Senate rules to allow the majority to close debate. Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton rebuked Clay for trying to stifle the Senate’s right to unlimited debate.
Three quarters of a century later, in 1917, senators adopted a rule (Rule 22), at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote, a device known as “cloture.” The new Senate rule was first put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Even with the new cloture rule, filibusters remained an effective means to block legislation, since a two-thirds vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next five decades, the Senate occasionally tried to invoke cloture, but usually failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to Southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching legislation, until cloture was invoked after a 60 day filibuster against the Civil Right Act of 1964. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or 60 of the current one hundred senators.
Many Americans are familiar with the filibuster conducted by Jimmy Stewart, playing Senator Jefferson Smith in Frank Capra’s film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but there have been some famous filibusters in the real-life Senate as well. During the 1930s, Senator Huey P. Long effectively used the filibuster against bills that he thought favored the rich over the poor. The Louisiana senator frustrated his colleagues while entertaining spectators with his recitations of Shakespeare and his reading of recipes for “pot-likkers.” Long once held the Senate floor for 15 hours. The record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina’s J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
 Floyd M. Riddick (Senate Parliamentarian): While researching his doctoral dissertation on congressional procedure in 1935, Floyd Riddick spent a year observing the workings of the House of Representatives. Most of the rest of his career he spent on the Senate side of the Capitol, as the first editor of the “Daily Digest” in the Congressional Record and as Parliamentarian of the Senate. As Parliamentarian, he sat immediately below the presiding officer in the Senate chamber, providing information on precedents and advising other senators on parliamentary procedure. In his interviews he talks about Senate filibusters and the efforts to change the rules of cloture. He also discusses the censures of Joseph McCarthy and Thomas Dodd , the contested election between John Durkin and Louis Wyman , and the preparations for a planned impeachment trial of Richard Nixon .
 S. Doc. 101-28 – Riddick’s Senate Procedure: Precedents and Practices: Named after Senate Parliamentarian Emeritus Floyd M. Riddick, this Senate document contains the contemporary precedents and practices of the Senate. An appendix contains suggested forms for various procedures, e.g., offering motions or filing conference reports. It is updated periodically by the Senate Parliamentarian. More than ten thousand precedents have been researched, analyzed, and incorporated into the 1992 edition. The 1992 edition contains all current precedents, and related Standing Rules and statutory provisions, through the end of the 101st Congress (1989-1990). See also http://www.riddick.gpo.gov/.