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William Proxmire: A Featured Biography

Senator William Proxmire

William Proxmire ran in a special election in August of 1957 to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. Considered an underdog, Proxmire shocked many by emerging victorious. When he arrived in Washington the day after his election, he was greeted at the airport by the Senate majority leader, who believed Proxmire’s vote was needed to pass the pending civil rights bill. Senator Proxmire soon established himself as an independent-minded politician, often acting without consulting leaders, staging filibusters, and never providing a sure Democratic vote. His legacy includes the 1986 Senate passage of an international treaty banning genocide, an issue he championed for two decades. He also promoted consumer protection legislation and sponsored the 1968 Truth in Lending Act. Averse to wasteful government spending, Proxmire wrote three books on the subject and presented a monthly "Golden Fleece Award” to “the biggest, most ridiculous or most ironic example of government spending.” Proxmire also set an attendance record not likely to be beaten. Over a period of more than 20 years, he did not miss a single roll-call vote, casting 10,252 consecutive votes before leaving the Senate in 1989.

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