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Lawmakers Engage in Lengthy “Twitter-busters” on DREAM Act, Tax Cuts

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Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters about his position on the tax compromise, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Filibusters can effectively stall legislation for a time, but the marathon congressional floor speeches can also cramp legs and dry throats. Twitter users, however, don't need tradition or decorum to "tweet" as many times as they please - as long as they limit each message to 140 characters. This past week, two lawmakers demonstrated that putting the two together creates a powerful rhetorical hybrid: the Twitter-buster.California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's Wednesday floor speech against what he called the "Affirmative Action Amnesty Act" did not stop the House from passing the DREAM Act. But that night, Rohrabacher took the debate to the social network Twitter, where he would never have to yield his floor time back to anyone. The back-and-forth lasted into late Sunday night.

On Friday, Twitter user @alesolo re-tweeted video of the Republican's feisty floor speech against the controversial legislation, which would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the United States by their parents, provided they attend college or serve in the military.

"Libs put racist preferences into law. Illegals' status normalized=preferences apply to them=betrayal of Americans by racist libs," Rohrabacher replied to @alesolo, who identified herself as being from Orange County, parts of which are located in the lawmaker's Southern California district.The exchange continued into Saturday night, when Rohrabacher tweeted, "@alesolo My kin arrived in 1709 before gov benefits & racist preferences. Should your family's educ/medical$ go to illegals? Are U selfish?"@alesolo shot back, "So early immigrants did not take ‘benefits' in the form of resources and land from native Americans?"

Rohrabacher responded: "Indians lost their country to foreigners. I'm not letting that happen to us w/out a fight. Which side are you & your friends on?"The Southern California representative also engaged with a number of other Twitter users. San Francisco blogger Denis Yurkichov (@yurchie) at one point tweeted that Rohrabacher is "all about white people." The lawmaker replied Sunday night, "Americans=every race. All should have priority over illegals. Amnesty triggers pref already in law. Pointing this out isn't racist."Rohrabacher's lengthy back and forth came on the heels of fellow lawmaker Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Friday filibuster-like rant on the Senate floor against Obama's tax rate extension compromise. Snippets from the speech, along with news articles and time counts, were tweeted through the senator's account as Sanders pontificated on Capitol Hill.

"You can call what I am doing today whatever you want, you it [sic] call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech..." Sanders' Twitter account announced at the beginning of the Senate soliloquy.An hour later, the Twitter hash tag "#filibuster" had been added to every update, and by 4:18 PM, the feed gleefully announced, "Sen. Bernie Sanders is trending FIRST in the nation right now. We will continue to tweet the senator's speech #filibuster." By that time, so many social network users took interest in his "very long speech" that Sanders was well on his way to becoming what the New York Times called a "Twitter sensation."

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