About C-SPAN Video Library

The C-SPAN Archives records, indexes, and archives all C-SPAN programming for historical, educational, research, and archival uses. Every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, now totaling over 160,000 hours, is contained in the C-SPAN Archives and immediately accessible through the database and electronic archival systems developed and maintained by the C-SPAN Archives. More Info

Follow Us on Twitter


Get E-mail Updates

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Twenty-five Years of C-SPAN2 Senate Coverage

May 31, 2011

June 2, 1986 was the first day of televised coverage of the Senate. As with the House, the cameras were controlled by the Senate, but the signal was transmitted in its entirety to the American viewing public through a new network C-SPAN2. At that time, C-SPAN2 was carried in 6.7 million homes; today, it is carried in 89 million homes. Looking back twenty-five years ago to that day, we would observe Strom Thurmond (R-SC) as president pro tempore, Robert Dole (R-KS) as majority leader, and Robert Byrd (D-WV) as minority leader. Below is the video of that first day.

Also like he did in the House, Al Gore (D-TN) made the first floor speech.


Some highlights of that first day include

Bob Dole on TV in the Senate and on his History book. Others speaking on that first day include Robert Byrd, John Glenn (D-OH) [applying eye shadow and powder on his pate], Al Gore (D-TN), and Strom Thurmond.

These fourteen senators were in the Senate in 1986 and are still serving today: Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). There were two women senators at the time: Paula Hawkins (R-FL) and Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS).



In this picture Senator Byrd is seen throwing the switch transmitting the first signal.
Byrd C2

The Video Library has more than 21,000 hours of Senate coverage. We estimate about there are about 5000 hours of quorum calls in twenty-five years. Even quorum calls look different after twenty-five years.



Excluding the majority and minority leaders over the last eighteen years we have indexed, the following are the top ten speakers:

Dorgan (D-ND)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Grassley (R-IA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Hatch (R-UT)
Harkin (R-IA)
Specter (R-PA)
McCain (R-AZ)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Boxer (D-CA)

Elaine Povich, who has thirty-three C-SPAN appearances including one before Senate television, sent along this memento.


Use the Peabody Award winning C-SPAN Video Library to find your own memorable senate moments.

Leave a comment


  • Congratulations to all at C-SPAN for the important work that you do. It is such fun to watch these first sessions!

  • Congratulations,

    Amazing watching this 6/2/86 video, same discussions, immigration, drug, education..soc sec. national sec. on and on we go! Thank you. Informed voters …no excuse not to be informed thanks you C Span

  • It was an amazing thing that people could watch the Senate from hundreds of miles away. Great work and congratulations on the many years of service.