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

Immediate reaction to Bernie's filibuster.

Bernie Sanders

Published December 10, 2010 at 3:54 p.m.

* 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.

* 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 filibuster 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:

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


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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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