Earlier this month, the Mail Tribune ran a story about Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster during nomination hearings on President Obama's CIA nominee. In the accompanying list of length filibusters, it listed Wayne Morse, D-Ore., having the second longest filibuster in 1953. My memory is that Sen. Morse was a Republican in those days, can you help me out?
— Arnold M., via the Internet.
Well, Arnold, we got it wrong and you got it partly right.
The vocal and combative Morse played to both sides of the aisle, ultimately finishing his 24-year career in the Senate as a Democrat. But the Oregon voters sent Morse to Washington, D.C., as a Republican. He remained with the Grand Old Party from 1945 until 1952 before Dwight Eisenhower's selection of Richard Nixon for a running mate caused Morse to defect in protest. But he remained a man without a party until 1955, for a time packing a folding chair to the Senate floor to position himself in the aisle between Democrats and Republicans.
It was during this time that Morse rose to protest the Tidelands Oil legislation before the Senate, maintaining his filibuster for 22 hours and 26 minutes. The mark was later surpassed by South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat, in 1957.
Morse moved over to the Democratic side of the aisle in 1955, lured by Lyndon Johnson, who assigned Morse to a coveted spot on the Foreign Relations Committee. With Morse in the fold, the Democrats took control of the Senate and Johnson became majority leader — and years later president.
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