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Rand Paul Ends Filibuster


After nearly 13 hours and to a resounding applause, Rand Paul yielded the floor, thus ending his filibuster. Paul thanked his staff, his colleagues, Capitol Hill police, and his supporters, among others, before citing “that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes” as his reason for calling it a night. He concluded that he hopes his efforts had some impact on the executive branch’s future discretion in its drone policy.


Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) took to the Senate floor today to filibuster President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, as well as to challenge the administration’s policy on drones. Paul began speaking at approximately 11:47 this morning, and we will keep updating this post with highlights from the senator and others.

As the filibuster entered its twelfth hour, senator Marco Rubio returned to the floor. In his speech, Rubio wondered if his Democratic colleagues would have joined the filibuster if George W. Bush was president and implementing these same drone-strike polices, instead of Obama; Paul has insisted that his efforts are not partisan, and that he would do the same in a Republican administration as well. Speaking after Cruz, who quoted from Shakespeare and Patton, Rubio went in a different direction by referencing The Godfather and rappers Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z.

As the night went on, Paul was also joined on the floor by South Dakota’s John Thune, fellow Kentuckian and minority leader Mitch McConnell, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake.

We’re just over nine hours of filibustering and Paul and the gang are still at it on the senate floor. Both Kansas’s Moran and Texas’s Cruz rejoined Paul in the last hour or so to lend their support once again. During his time, Cruz read tweets from the day commending Paul for his endurance and efforts. Paul thanked his colleague for reading off the praise from Twitter and cheering him up after a long day.

As we approached the sixth hour of the filibuster, Senator Rand Paul said the president’s use of drone strikes recalled the Queen’s approach to justice in Alice in Wonderland. He asked, “Has America the beautiful become Alice in Wonderland?” The senator compared the Queen’s demands for “sentence first, verdict afterwards” to the administration’s sentencing of terrorists to death before they have been tried in court. 

As the filibuster entered its sixth hour, Majority Leader Harry Reid arrived on the floor to call for a cloture vote on the filibuster, or else postpone Brennan’s confirmation vote until the next day. Both Saxby Chambliss and Paul objected to the motion, meaning that the filibuster can go on as long as Paul stays standing. Paul said he would be happy to end it if he had reassurance from the Obama administration that drone strikes would not be used on noncombatants. After Reid left the floor, Senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Cornyn of Texas joined in the effort.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) took to the floor of the Senate this afternoon in support of Senator Paul. He thanked the senator for “defending the institution” of the Senate and its “constitutional obligation to ask relevant questions of public policy and get answers” through his filibuster.

The filibuster became a bipartisan effort when Oregon’s Democratic senator Ron Wyden joined Paul on the floor in its fourth hour. Wyden called for reining in the executive branch’s “serious, far-reaching” drone-strike program, saying that the targeted killings “should not be allowed . . . without any scrutiny.”

“Every American deserves to know when the government thinks it has the right to kill them,” he added later in his speech.

Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) took to the floor of the Senate this afternoon to point out the inherent problems with the definitions of imminent threat and feasibility of capture in the Obama administration’s recent memo on killing Americans. It is “an imminence standard that leaves out anything imminent. In other words, it’s not just peanut butter without the jelly, it’s peanut butter without the peanut butter.”


Three hours into Paul’s filibuster, fellow Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas joined the Kentucky senator on the floor. Cruz praised Paul for his leadership on the issue of drones and the rights of American citizens, calling him a “modern Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” who is “surely making Jimmy Stewart smile.” Along with Cruz, senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined Paul on the floor at roughly the same time.

Senator Paul warned that the erosion of laws protecting civil rights in America could lead to the rise of an American dictator. “In 1923, when they destroyed the currency in Germany, they elected Hitler. I’m not saying anybody’s Hitler, so don’t misunderstand me. I’m saying there’s a danger, even in a democratic country that someday you get a leader who comes in the middle of chaos and says those people did it. . . . And if the laws have been removed that prevented that from happening, if the laws have been removed which say we can’t indefinitely detain — in Hitler’s case, he said, ‘Those Jews, those bankers! The Jews did this to us. And they were indefinitely detained.’ Now am I saying that’s going to happen in our country? Unlikely.”

Senator Paul also bemoaned the president’s duplicity on civil liberties: “I admired [President Obama] for saying Americans shouldn’t be involved in torture. I admired him when he said that we should follow the rule of law and that we should have warrants before we tap people’s phones. . . . But I find a great irony and really frankly a great hypocrisy that someone who would defend getting warrants before we tap your phone, but won’t defend a trial before we kill you.”

Paul warned that the United States is “engaged in a limitless war,” given the lack of geographic and temporal limits to its efforts to combat terrorism. He cautioned that this approach gives Washington the authority to apply “martial law” and could allow it to authorize drone-strikes to prevent perceived threats, both domestically and abroad.

Throughout his filibuster, Paul has referred to many great legal, economic, and philosophical thinkers, including Patrick Henry, Friedrich Hayek, Montesquieu, and National Review’s own Kevin Williamson. The senator read from parts of Williamson’s Corner post from last month, “On Drones, Contra Krauthammer,” to make the case that it is a dangerous precedent to say that “sympathizing with our enemies and propagandizing on their behalf is the equivalent of making war on the country.”

Minutes earlier, Paul worried that we’re “going to have the standard that we’re going to kill noncombatants in America,” and asked the president to be clear if that’s his intention for the drone-strike program. He criticized the president for dancing around the issue by pointing to the military’s responsibility to repel invasions, when Paul has said his focus is on noncombatants and not those who have taken up arms. Charles C. W. Cooke touched on this issue on the Corner this afternoon as well.