2014: The 10 most memorable speeches from the floor
A handful of impassioned speeches stood out from the thousands delivered on the floors of the House and the Senate in 2014.
From Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledging to make the upper chamber function better to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) suggesting Americans won’t elect another Republican president if the party doesn’t help enact immigration reform, here are the most outstanding floor speeches of the year in chronological order.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) vows to fix the Senate, January 8.
McConnell’s 40-minute speech offered the first preview of his election-year argument. The Kentucky Republican pledged to change the Senate’s current culture if he became majority leader. He promised to give committees more power, allow more votes on amendments and require longer work-weeks in the Capitol. “If America is to face up to the challenges we face in the decades ahead, she’ll need the Senate the founders in their wisdom intended, not the hollow shell of the Senate we have today,” McConnell said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accuses the CIA of spying on Senate computers, March 11.
Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, charged that the CIA conducted an unconstitutional search of the panel’s network. She said the CIA violated the separation of powers and the Fourth Amendment to intimidate committee staffers working on a report about the agency’s use of torture. “I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither,” Feinstein said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) suggests George W. Bush will be last GOP president, May 20.
Gutierrez, one of the most ardent advocates of immigration reform advocates in Congress, spoke next to a poster depicting former GOP Presidents George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln.
He argued in a fiery speech that Americans would never elect another Republican to the White House if the party failed to act on an immigration overhaul. “If you do nothing on immigration, I guess you can take comfort in knowing that from Abraham Lincoln to George W. Bush, you had a pretty good run. Freeing the slaves, winning the Civil War, the interstate highway system. Those all go in the highlights column,” Gutierrez said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) goes after the Washington Redskins, June 18.
Reid took to the Senate floor just minutes after the U.S. Patent Office said the NFL team couldn’t trademark the “Redskins” name. He urged the Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, to change the team’s name to something inoffensive. “Daniel Snyder says this is about tradition. I ask, what tradition? A tradition of racism is all that that name leaves in its wake. The writing is on the wall. It’s on the wall in giant blinking neon lights. The name will change, and justice will be done for the tribes in Nevada and across the nation who care so deeply about this issue,” Reid said.
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) bids the House farewell, July 31.
Cantor lost his primary over the summer to now-Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in the biggest political upset of the year. On his last day in Congress, Cantor delivered a farewell address to a packed House chamber.
“This is a privilege of a lifetime,” Cantor said. He also wished Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) well, as McCarthy prepared to ascend from Majority Whip to Cantor’s old position of Majority Leader.
“I know that your leadership will be an inspiration to all of us,” Cantor told McCarthy. Cantor and McCarthy then embraced in the center of the House floor, as fellow lawmakers delivered a long standing ovation.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) advocates against Syria intervention, Sept. 18. P
aul insisted that another war in the Middle East had to be avoided during a debate over whether to arm Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. He argued in a passionate speech that the so-called “moderate” rebels weren’t reliable allies and that the United States should stay out of the conflict. “There are already those in both parties who insist that we must have American GIs on the ground. I’m not sending any American soldiers. I’m not sending your son, your daughter or mine over to the middle of that chaos. The people who live there need to stand up and fight,” the likely 2016 presidential contender said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) emulates Cicero Nov. 20.
Cruz borrowed from Roman philosopher and orator Cicero to blast President Obama’s executive action to delay deportations of undocumented immigrants. He substituted President Obama for Catiline, a senator who tried to overthrow the Roman Republic. “When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end to that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?” Cruz said.
Congressional Black Caucus members stand in solidarity with Ferguson protesters, Dec. 1.
Members of the CBC took to the House floor on the chamber’s first day back in session after a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for shooting an unarmed African American teenager in Ferguson. Lawmakers held up their hands over their heads in the same gesture as demonstrators protesting the decision. ” ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ It’s a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence in community after community after community,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) accuses the CIA of a cover-up, Dec. 10.
Just weeks after losing his reelection fight, Udall accused the Obama administration of trying to “cover up the truth” about the use of torture by the CIA. Udall, who frequently railed against National Security Agency spying, said the White House had set a bad precedent in trying to delay a Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture. “If there’s no moral leadership from the White House helping the public understand that the CIA’s torture program wasn’t necessary and didn’t save lives or disrupt terrorist plots, then what’s to stop the next White House and the next CIA director from supporting torture?” Udall said in a nearly hour-long speech. “The CIA is lying. This is not an issue of the past; this is going on today.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says “enough is enough” with Wall Street favors, Dec. 12.
Warren solidified her populist appeal among the Democratic Party’s liberal base by slamming provisions in the “cromnibus” government spending bill that made changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial system overhaul. She directed her ire at Citigroup for being intimately involved in the wording of parts of the legislation.
“Many Wall Street institutions have exerted extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power, but Citigroup has risen above the others,” Warren said. The Massachusetts Democrat concluded her speech by blasting favors for Wall Street. “Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key positionm and the kind of cronyism we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but that everybody comes to regret. Enough is enough,” she said.
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