Rand Paul’s 13 Hour Filibuster – The Talking Kind – Against John Brennan

Mar 6, 2013 2:09pm

Rand Paul yielded the Senate floor and his live filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA at 12:39 a.m. – a little less than 13 hours after he started talking – to applause from his colleagues a bit of a joke.

“I would go for another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I have learned there are limits and I have to go take care of one of those right now.”

It is not clear if there are enough votes to block Brennan, but Paul did change the mind of some of his colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who now thinks there should be more debate before a final vote on Brennan. A procedural vote on Brennan’s nomination is set for Thursday morning.

Click Here to jump below for updates through the night.

Original Post at 2:09 p.m.  – With John Brennan poised to be confirmed as CIA director, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has a little bit of libertarian running in his veins, is engaging in the most traditional form of filibuster – talk.

In today’s Washington, the filibuster has evolved into a sort of bipartisan détente that means most everything requires 60 votes, which has sort of made the word lose some of it’s meaning.

But Paul doesn’t have 40 votes and he wants to make a point about Brennan, the White House adviser who is seen as architect of the administration’s policy of using unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries. A vote to make Brennan CIA director could come as soon as today.

Mr. Smith would be proud. That’s how most Americans probably view a filibuster: Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith reading aloud for hours and hours in pursuit of righting some wrong.

The wrong, for Paul,  is the Obama administration’s targeted killing program – the use of drones to bomb suspected terrorists in foreign lands. His concern hit a new level Monday when his office released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder explaining that the administration feels it has the ability, in the extremely unlikely situation, to kill Americans on U.S. soil to avert an imminent terror attack.

Watch:  Eric Holder Downplays Possibility of Domestic Terror Killings

“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA, Paul said at about 11:47 a.m. ET. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court, that Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”

Paul said he doesn’t necessarily think President Obama will abuse the power. But no president, said Paul, should have the power to kill Americans in the U.S. without a trial by jury.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When I asked the president, ‘Can you kill an American on American soil?’ it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, ‘I haven’t killed anyone yet.’ He goes on to say, ‘And I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.’ Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the president the — you know, they give him consideration. They say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government.

More recently, a filibuster is any time the minority party blocks something that could be passed by the majority. That can take several forms. Senators agreed earlier this year to a series of rule changes to cut down on the time it takes to move through these procedural roadblocks while preserving the minority’s right to object.

Paul is certainly in the minority on the issue of drones and targeted killing. An ABC News / Washington Post Poll in February 2012 found that 83 percent of Americans support the program. Paul would argue that the program is so shrouded in secrecy that people don’t know enough about it. Drawing attention was a stated goal of his filibuster today.

It is important to remember that this traditional form of filibuster is doomed to fail. The human body can only go on so long. Paul has promised to talk until he can’t talk any more, but admitted, “Ultimately, I will not win; there are not enough votes.”

As of this writing, he has been going for about two hours and he hasn’t yet run out of things to say about drones or the Constitution.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent some 8 hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

But the record for longest filibuster goes to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who died in 2003. He filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

It is not clear if Paul’s will last that long. Indeed, the FOX Business’ Lou Dobbs tweeted just before 2 p.m. ET, that Paul would be joining him on his show, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET. Considering the bipartisan support for his nomination, there is little doubt that Brennan will ultimately be confirmed.

No such luck for Caitlin Halligan, who didn’t require a long speech to be filibustered today. Halligan’s nomination to sit on the Federal District Court of  Appeals for the District of Columbia was blocked by Republicans who felt she was too liberal, particularly on the issue of the 2nd Amendment. Halligan got a majority 51 votes, but was defeated on the procedural motion, where she needed 60.

Here are some updates from the filibuster:

12:23 p.m. – Sen. Dick Durbin is the first Democrat in some time to speak. He refutes Rand Paul’s argument that a strike against a terrorist must be to avert an imminent threat. Durbin suggest that Osama bin Laden posed a threat even if it was not immediately imminent. Rand Paul answers back, “touche.”

11:36 p.m. – The filibuster carries on, but it has gained the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Appearing with Paul on the Senate floor as the filibuster entered its 12th hour, McConnell congratulated his fellow Kentuckian and said he said he’ll oppose moving toward a vote on Brennan and that there should be more debate. Earlier on Wednesday McConnell and other Republicans were ready to allow a vote.

This does not mean that McConnell suddenly holds Paul’s views on drones and targeted killing and the war on terror. And it is not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end debate tomorrow.

But it does indicate that Paul’s effort pierced through and establishment Republicans now joining with Paul may be feeling some heat on this from the Tea Party conservatives. (McConnell is up for reelection, don’t forget).

McConnell’s support also upends the conventional party alignments in the war on terror since 2001. They have been increasingly strained during President Obama’s presidency and escalation of the drone war and with the election of so many Republicans who never served under the last administration.

But imagine if George W. Bush’s Attorney General had, like Eric Holder, argued the government could kill a U.S. Senator in the U.S.

You can easily envision a mirror image political argument with Democrats and Rand Paul mounting a filibuster.

Here is what McConnell said tonight: “…at whatever point we get to a cloture vote to extend debate on the nomination of Brennan, it is my view that cloture should not be invoked. This is a controversial nominee. Should cloture be invoked, I intend to oppose the nomination and congratulate my colleague from Kentucky for this extraordinary effort.”

Updated 11:19 p.m. – Senator Marco Rubio, doing his part on the Senate floor, brings some pop culture, quoting Wiz Khalifa – “Work hard play hard.” A bit later he quotes “another modern day poet”, Jay Z, to make an argument that Democrats would be acting differently toward the drone program if George W. Bush was president. Finally, he brings up the Godfather, and points to a quote about lawyers. Not, he said because it was relevant to the debate, but because he likes the quote.

Rubio might be a bit hipper than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who quoted the movie “Patton” and Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”

Rubio ultimately makes a larger point about the need for greater transparency at the White House.

Updated 10:55 p.m. – Rand Paul’s filibuster has now lasted 11 hours. Sen. Ted Cruz, the newly elected Texan, has been giving him a lot of help this hour.

Updated 10:13 p.m. – Sarah Palin has apparently send Rand Paul some jerky.


Updated 10:06 p.m. – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., pointed out that Paul has been unable to check his cell phone (they’re technically prohibited on the Senate floor). So Cruz began reading from the #standwithrand Twitter feed to bring Paul up to speed. For these moments Paul’s efforts became a filibuster in 140 character increments.

Updated: 9:47 p.m. – Sen. Paul has been at his filibuster of John Brennan for ten hours. With the exception of some peanuts and other snacks and some breaks from actual talking while colleagues joined him on the floor, Paul has carried on. But he has not left the Senate floor. Republicans have brought in some reinforcements. Sen. John Barasso of Wyoming has joined Paul on the Senate floor and is reading from some of Paul’s writings on the unconstitutionality of domestic drone strikes.

For some perspective, Paul has gone longer than the longest ever Major League Baseball game. That 8 hour, 6 minute match occurred in 1984 between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. It lasted 25 innings.

Paul still has an hour to go to reach the longest ever professional tennis match, which occurred in 2010 between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut and lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes.

Updated: 7:07 p.m. – Paul offered to give up his filibuster and move forward with the John Brennan confirmation if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would allow for a vote on a non-binding resolution on drones proposed by Paul.  Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaking on behalf of the Democrats, objected and offered instead to allow Paul to testify in front of a committee on drones.  That did not satisfy Paul.  So the filibuster continued. Paul had an apple and a thermos of hot tea brought to him by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

Updated: 6:19 p.m. – At about 6:15, Sen. Rand Paul snuck some food on the Senate floor. That’s probably against Senate rules, but then again the folks who were helping him earlier all appear to have left. He hasn’t had anyone ask a question for about an hour.

Updated: 4:46 p.m. – Just about exactly five hours into Rand Paul’s filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asks for consent to move toward a vote. Paul says he’d happily move toward a vote if the White House will make a statement that the drone program will not kill Americans not involved in terrorism. Reid says he can’t speak for the President or the attorney general. Reid indicates the vote on Brennan will happen on Thursday if and when Paul yields the floor.

Updated 4:42 p.m – Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has joined the filibuster. Chambliss was one of three Republicans to oppose Brennan in the committee’s vote. Another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, comes to help out too.

Update at 3:52 p.m. – Sen. Ted Cruz reads William Travis’s famous “victory or death” letter from the Alamo. The Alamo fell 117 years ago today, something Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul have pointed out. So too is their effort to block John Brennan ultimately ill-fated. The four senators who have undertaken the filibuster, led by Paul, lack the votes.

Sen. Ron Wyden is an example of why Brennan will ultimately be confirmed. Wyden is a Democrat with concerns about drones and oversight. But he has joined the conversation on the Senate floor to dicuss the issue with Paul.

“Every American has a right to know when their government feels it has a right to kill them,” said Wyden.

Update at 3:10 p.m. – Now joining Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who today questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the remote possibility that the government would kill Americans in the U.S. without due process. Twenty minutes later, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas takes to the floor.

Update at 2:59 p.m. – Utah Sen. Mike Lee gives Sen. Rand Paul a break just about three hours after starting his filibuster.

Update at 2:47 p.m. – Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been filibustering John Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA for three hours.

ABC’s Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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