Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, speaks on the Senate floor on November 30, 2022.
Some lawmakers delivered dozens of floor speeches during the 117th Congress, C-SPAN’s tracking showed.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were the top talkers in their chambers.
The number of days that members used up floor time was on par with previous years.
Call them the stars of C-SPAN.
A select group of lawmakers grabbed the cable television network’s spotlight more than any of their colleagues during the 117th Congress with dozens of floor speeches, according to C-SPAN’s tracking.
Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, made the list, coming in second by delivering speeches on 136 days as of December 16, 2022. He moved up from fourth place last Congress but it’s not like there’s a competition, according to his staff.
“This is likely due to the fact that few Members can compete with the loquaciousness of Rep. Carter,” a Carter spokesperson wrote Insider in an email.
The top talker in the House for the 2021-2022 session was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, who delivered speeches on a host of topics on 143 days. She ranked second in the previous Congress.
“I believe in debate,” she told Insider. “A debate is just a seismic part of democracy. And that’s why I use that tool — because it represents democracy.”
There she was on December 1, touting a community reentry program for prisoners: “Individuals with criminal convictions face daunting challenges upon release.”
A day earlier, Jackson Lee was on the floor calling for paid sick leave for railroad workers. “I’m on the floor today because I have a heart,” she said. “How indecent is it to have companies who refuse to negotiate with our rail unions?”
Most members don’t usually hang out on the House or Senate floor to hear their colleagues’ speeches. Those who speak often are mainly addressing C-SPAN, which televises floor proceedings. Members typically frame their remarks toward their constituents, and highlight the work they’ve either done for their home district or are pushing to do.
These House members spoke the most on the House floor during the 117th Congress.
Courtesy of C-SPAN
Also among the most vocal members of Congress are Reps. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, Doug LaMalfa of California, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer came in ninth, speaking on 88 days. Tied in 10th place with Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“There’s no real surprises. These are the usual members who seem to come up the top of every year,” said Dr. Robert Browning, a political science professor at Purdue University who’s followed the data as director of the C-SPAN archives.
A member’s talkativeness on the floor – or silence – is usually just a matter of personal style, according to Browning. There isn’t much evidence to suggest that more speeches mean more legislative results in Congress.
“There are a group of talkers and non-talkers,” he said. “Then what we see at the end of the year in this are the talkers. And they tend to speak on more subjects, more often and sort of distinguish themselves that way by being floor speakers.”
As members “grow in power,” Browning continued, “they become more specialized and they only speak on their committees’ issues or something very important to their constituency.”
Carter’s floor speeches are written by every member of his staff, from interns to the chief, though his spokesperson says he “enjoys speaking from the heart,” especially about his constituents. His staff dedicates about 10 hours a week to preparing these remarks.
“I was not sent to Washington to be quiet – I was sent to be a voice for the people of Georgia’s First Congressional District,” Carter said in a statement. “It is my duty to use the House Floor as a vehicle to share their views, needs, and successes. Access to the House Floor is a privilege and I take advantage of it whenever I can, because if there’s a vote happening, Georgia deserves to be in the conversation.”
On the Senate side, the top talkers are largely expected names. That’s because the Senate floor is typically where leaders make announcements to their members on legislation and nominations, among other topics.
Coming in first for the 117th Congress, not surprisingly, was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with speeches on 254 days, followed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking on 244 days.
Other senators in leadership that made the list are Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, one of the longest-serving members of the upper chamber and the top Republican on the powerful Judiciary Committee, earned the sixth spot, speaking on 141 days.
A standout member on the list was Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican in her first term. Blackburn made headlines in 2022 for her fiery speeches blasting Democrats on everything from the economy to the border to culture wars. She spoke on 104 days.
“Each day, I hear from Tennesseans who feel like they’re fighting a losing battle against the erosion of our basic values,” Blackburn said in a speech during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation process last spring.
Overall, the number of days that members used up floor time was on par with previous Congresses, according to CSPAN data.
“Sheila Jackson Lee is, if you ask around, they’d say, ‘Well, she wants to say something about almost all the topics, and so she’s gonna be out there on those things,'” Browning said. “The same way with Glenn Thompson. It’s just their style.”