Heard on the Hill

Flashback Friday: D’Amato’s Filibuster

15 hours included some singing but didn’t interrupt regular Senate business

Rep. Alfonse M. D’Amato, R-N.Y., was fighting to keep jobs in his state during his 1992 filibuster. (CQ/Roll Call file photo)

On this day in 1992, Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato’s Long Island accent rang through the Senate chamber as part of a 15-hour-and-14-minute filibuster. 

The New York Republican, who said he was was standing up for workers, was pushing for a tax bill amendment that would save jobs in his home state. 

An American typewriter manufacturer, Smith Corona, was going to move jobs from an upstate New York factory to Mexico to save on labor costs.

“How often have we heard of the plant and the jobs that are lost and then only to hear and have insult added to injury that the job that paid $17 an hour in the small town of Portlandville, outside of Syracuse, New York, will move down south to be replaced by a job that pays $3 an hour,” he said less than 10 minutes into the filibuster.

D’Amato started around dinnertime and spoke into the morning so he wouldn’t interrupt regular Senate business. And he mixed in a few treats — most famously, at one point, he sang “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way).”

“I said that if this is not included in the tax bill, then don’t expect this senator to just go along,” he said on the floor. “I will do and use whatever method I can to see to it that we address that situation, and I do not intend to yield and I do not intend to just sit willy nilly by and say, ‘Oh, there is nothing we can do.’”

Thanks to C-SPAN, you can watch all 15 hours.

D’Amato went on to narrowly win a third term that November. Another of his filibusters — from 1986, also a re-election year — ranks as the second-longest one in Senate history at 23 hours and 30 minutes. 

He lost to Rep. Charles E. Schumer in 1998, and remains the last Republican to be elected to the Senate from New York. 

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