Escalating his war with the administration over civil liberties and drone strikes, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor today to engage in a rare talking filibuster in opposition to CIA nominee John Brennan.
“I will do everything I can to stop him, and I told him I will filibuster it,” Paul said Sunday night. “Unfortunately, I am not enough. You know, it takes 41. And we could not hold 41 together on the Hagel nomination. So my guess is I will not get 41.”
This afternoon, he made good on that promise, declaring on the floor that he is filibustering Brennan and would speak at the podium as long as he could. In the modern era, senators don’t actually need to speak on the Senate floor to filibuster, but some do it as an added protest, most famously Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2010.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Paul in a letter released this week that the U.S. government theoretically has the power to kill people on American soil, but only in extraordinary circumstances.
Paul called out liberals for loudly opposing President Bush on civil liberties, but then acquiescing when it comes to Obama. “Where was the cacophony that rose up to demand to the Bush administration get a judge to approve a wiretap?” They don’t seem to care that “you don’t need a judge to kill someone,” he said.
UPDATE: About four hours after it started, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, joined Paul’s filibuster. “I think Senator Paul and I agree that this nomination provides a very good opportunity to consider and take a close look at the rules on targeted killing,” Wyden said on the Senate floor. The Oregonian has been a vocal critic of the administration’s secrecy on drones and other issues, and often pushes the White House on civil liberties beyond what most Democrats are comfortable doing.
Previously, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a close ally of Paul’s, also joined the effort by speaking on the floor, as did Kansas Republican Jerry Moran.
UPDATE – 4:20: Sen. Marco Rubio came to the Senate floor to offer a more moderate approach to Paul’s. Rubio voted yesterday to advance Brennan’s nomination out of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so it’s unlikely that he’d join an official filibuster, but he agreed with Paul that the Senate should be able to hold nominees accountable. “I have questions that I care about that are somewhat different from the ones the senator from Kentucky has asked,” he said, but he said he supported Paul’s right to ask tough questions of Brennan and the administration.
UPDATE – 5:00: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the floor late this afternoon to suggest the filibustering senators go at it for another 90 minutes before ending things so Reid could file cloture on the nomination in preparation for a vote tomorrow. Paul objected. “We’re through for the night,” Reid replied. His office still expects to file cloture today, which could pave the way for a vote tomorrow, assuming the Senate provides unanimous consent for it. Otherwise, a vote would have to wait until this weekend.
UPDATE – 12:45 AM: Sen. Rand Paul finally yields the floor after 12 hours and 52 minutes, saying, “I’ve discovered there are some limits to filibustering, and I’m going to have to take care of one of them in a few minutes.”