Updated: 7:08 p.m.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday night concluded his marathon efforts to draw attention to problems in President Barack Obama’s tax cut legislation after burning up hours of floor time to denounce the deal and the GOP economic policies it would enshrine.
The Vermont Independent clocked more than eight hours on the Senate floor railing against the $900 billion package that, among other things, extends Bush-era tax cuts for two years.
Even a late afternoon news conference by President Bill Clinton did little to shake the public’s fascination with the 69-year-old lawmaker’s talkathon — according to Twitter, while Clinton ranked No. 6 in its trending topics, Sanders was the No.1 one topic in the world, while the filibuster hashtag was ranked No. 3.
According to Sanders’ office, online viewers temporarily shut down the Senate’s servers Friday because of the speech.
Sanders began his talkathon Friday at 10:25 a.m., and aides said he planned to remain on the floor as long as he could.
Sanders said his reason for giving the lengthy speech was simple — to “take a strong stand against this bill, and I intend to tell my colleagues and the nation exactly why I am in opposition to this bill.”
“You can call what I am doing today whatever you want, you can call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech. I’m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides,” he added.
But while Sanders may not have intended to create a spectacle, the sight of the white-haired liberal conducting a Mr. Smith-style filibuster was clearly catching the public’s attention.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) were reportedly in negotiations over whether Democrats would be allowed to offer amendments to the tax package next week. Details of the negotiations were unclear, and Republicans and the White House have been adamant that no substantive changes will be allowed.