Sen. Rand Paul Ends Filibuster Against NSA's Controversial Data Collection Program After 10 Hours

The Kentucky senator opposes the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.

May 20, 2015, 9:59 PM

— -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, wrapped up his so-called "filibuster" over the National Security Agency's controversial bulk collection of Americans' phone records just before midnight Thursday.

Paul's talk-a-thon on the Senate floor lasted exactly 10 and a half hours.

"My voice is rapidly leaving, my bedtime has long since passed," Paul said as he began to wrap up his speech. "The bulk collection must end, and I think we have the votes to do it now."

"Thank you for staying and not throwing things. We will try not to do this but every few years," he said. "I want to thank the American people for considering the arguments and hopefully for helping us push this towards a reform where we all respect the Fourth Amendment and the Bill of Rights all again. Thank you Mr. President, and I relinquish the floor."

Armed with binders full of material, Paul started his lengthy speech opposing the PATRIOT Act at 1:18 p.m. Wednesday.

“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now, and I will not let the PATRIOT Act, the most un-patriotic of acts, go unchallenged," Paul said as he started his speech on the Senate floor. "The bulk collection of all Americans' phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

"The people don't want the bulk collection of their records, and if we were listening, we would hear that," Paul said.

Provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, which authorizes the NSA's controversial bulk collection of phone records, is set to expire on June 1. Paul, known for his libertarian leanings, has said he does not want the program to be reauthorized.

Over the course of his filibuster, Paul was joined by several of his Senate colleagues, most notably including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is running against Paul in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cruz, who partook in Paul’s 2013 filibuster against drones and waged a filibuster of his own against Obamacare in 2013, compared the moment to the “Blues Brothers”

“Standing here with the senator from Kentucky, with the Senator from Utah at 11:40 p.m., I’m reminded of the movie the Blues Brothers, saying “Jake we gotta get the band back together again,” Cruz said. “I’m reminded of previous evenings standing here with this same band of brothers in the wee hours of the morning.”

Cruz acknowledged he and Paul “don’t agree entirely on this issue,” but said they are both determined to ensure the government's bulk collection of metadata ends. The two men differ because Cruz supports the House-passed USA Freedom Act, which Paul opposes.

Before speaking on the Senate floor, Cruz presided over the Senate, a task that falls to the newest members of the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, then took over duties for presiding over the Senate, but he was not expected to join in on the filibuster.

Rubio stands in stark contrast to Cruz and Paul. The Florida senator would like to reauthorize the controversial NSA spying program, a position supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Richard Burr, R-Florida, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But Cruz argued that extending the PATRIOT Act will not pass the Senate, all while Rubio presided over the Senate.

"I address my friends in the Republican Party who would prefer to reauthorize the Patriot act. Even if that’s their preference, it is abundantly, abundantly clear that a clean reauthorization of the Patriot act ain’t passing this body, and it certainly ain't passing the House of Representatives," Cruz said.

Over the course of his filibuster, Paul has been joined by more Democrats than Republicans. Only three Republican senators – Sens. Cruz, Steve Daines and Mike Lee - delivered speeches alongside Paul compared to seven Democratic senators - Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell, Chris Coons, Martin Heinrich, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Ron Wyden - participated in the filibuster.

Paul's family even extended their support. Paul's father, Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2012, and his mother posed for a photo in front of a television during Paul's multi-hour talk-a-thon.

You might recognize these liberty lovers who just sent in their #standwithrand picture! Join them and send in yours.

— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 21, 2015

Paul's speech could become a flash-point in the 2016 campaign, with candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and potential candidates Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham advocating for the extension of the PATRIOT Act.

In 2013, Paul famously filibustered for nearly 13 hours against drone strikes on U.S. citizens on foreign soil.

Paul's office labeled today's endeavor as a "filibuster," but many have argued it technically is only a really long speech, since it is not blocking or delaying action on a bill.

The longest Senate floor speech in Senate history took place in 1957 when Sen. Strom Thurmond spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the 1957 civil rights bill. Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2013 speech over health care that led to the government shutdown was the fourth-longest filibuster ever, coming in at 21 hours and 19 minutes.

Paul’s 2013 filibuster over drones was the 10th longest speech, clocking in at 12 hours and 52 minutes.

Prior to taking the Senate floor, Paul recorded a video explaining why he decided to filibuster the PATRIOT Act.

Exclusive video that answers the question: why a filibuster?

— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015


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