Byron L. DorganU.S. Senator
[D] North Dakota, United States

Length: 3 minutes, 22 seconds

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Mr. DORGAN. Madam President, the Senator from West Virginia will recall that he told me a story some long while ago about this desk that I occupy in the Senate. This desk, as do all of these desks, has an interesting history. This desk was the desk of former Senator Robert La Follette from Wisconsin. It was Senator BYRD who informed me of something that happened 91 years ago, I believe, in late May in the year 1909.

Senator La Follette was standing at this desk--this desk may not have been in this exact spot, but it was this desk--involved in a filibuster.

During those days, this Senate had a lot of aggressive, robust debates. Senator La Follette was a very forceful man with strong feelings, and he stood at this desk engaged in a filibuster. As the story goes, apparently someone sent up a glass of eggnog for him to sip on during the filibuster. He brought that glass of eggnog to his lips and drank then spat and began to scream that he had been poisoned. He thought he had tasted poison in this glass of eggnog. The glass was sent away--I believe this was in 1909--to have it evaluated. They discovered someone had, in fact, put poison in his drink. They never found the culprit.

I think of stories such as this one about this Chamber, what a wonderful tradition in the Senate of people who feel so strongly. We should not diminish the role of the Senate as the place of great debates.

I served in the House. It is a wonderful institution. There are 435 Members. There they package their debates through the Rules Committee. They say: You get 1 minute, you get 2 minutes, you get 5 minutes. We will entertain these 10 amendments, and that is all. And if you are not on the list, you are not there. That is the way the House works because that is the only way it could work with 435 Members. But the Senate was never designed to work that way. It was never intended to work that way.

The Senate was to be the center of the great debates, debates that are unfettered by time, unfettered by restriction. Is that in some ways inefficient? Yes. Is it cumbersome, sometimes inconvenient? Sure. It is all of that. But it is also the hallmark of the center of democracy. We ought not ever dilute that, nor should we ever dilute the opportunity of every single person who comes to sit and at times stand in the Senate to represent his or her constituents to make the strongest case they can make on whatever the issue is that day.