Bring Out the Cots. The Senate Is Throwing a Slumber Party.

‘Twas the night of voting, when all through the halls, not a creature was stirring, not even the Udalls.

Cots in the Strom Thurmond Room for Republican senators discussing judicial nominees and the use of a filibuster with Democrats May 23, 2005.
National Journal
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Matt Vasilogambros
Dec. 11, 2013, 12:58 p.m.

It’s go­ing to be a late night for sen­at­ors on Cap­it­ol Hill. But worry not: Just a few feet away in the Old Sen­ate Cham­ber, there’ll be cots for the law­makers to rest.

Break­ing out the cots is a rare oc­cur­rence, but they’re al­ways avail­able for the tired le­gis­lat­or. On Wed­nes­day, sen­at­ors are ex­pec­ted to be up un­til the wee hours of the night, de­bat­ing and vot­ing on pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ees.

“We haven’t seen this in a while,” one Sen­ate His­tor­ic­al Of­fice staffer said. In fact, the of­fice has doc­u­mented the “all-night ses­sions” since 1915, ran­ging from de­bates on the Sug­ar Act of 1960 to the debt lim­it in 1981.

The keep­er of the cots, the Sen­ate ser­geant at arms, co­ordin­ates with Cap­it­ol Fa­cil­it­ies, which stores the cots and sets up prop­er nap­ping areas when sen­at­ors need it.

Cots are lined up on July 17, 2007, during an all-night debate before voting on an amendment to the defense authorization bill. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images) Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

From The Wash­ing­ton Post in 1977 dur­ing the de­bate of the Nat­ur­al Gas Policy Act:

Not since the fight over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, when cots were set up in the old Su­preme Court cham­ber near the Sen­ate floor, has the Sen­ate sat up all night to try to break a fili­buster.”

The next day, the news­pa­per re­por­ted:

In con­trast to these lonely de­bates, bells dom­in­ated this one, sum­mon­ing sen­at­ors from their naps on nearby cots and couches for a steady suc­ces­sion of roll calls. All but 12 of the Sen­ate’s 100 mem­bers answered to their names at a 2:15 a.m. read­ing of the roster. Eighty-six of them showed up at an­oth­er roll call an hour later. Many of the sen­at­ors were seeth­ing.

Read­ing like a line from a chil­dren’s book, The Post doc­u­ment an­oth­er time the cots were pulled out in 1982 for the budget:

Not far away, Demo­crats napped. Signs on the Mike Mans­field Room, where cots had been in­stalled, al­lowed “sen­at­ors only.”

So, no mat­ter how late the sen­at­ors stay up, they’ll al­ways have a place to rest their heads when de­bat­ing gets too tire­some.

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