Rand Paul and the Filibuster

Sen. Rand Paul (Gage Skidmore)

Sen. Rand Paul (Gage Skidmore)

With impeccable timing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) launched a filibuster this morning as snow descended upon Washington D.C. Paul began his filibuster in an effort to draw attention to the issue of drone strikes on American soil. Paul has demonstrated reservations against Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director due to Brennan’s strong support of the drone program.

For weeks, Paul had been asking the Obama administration for an official response in regards to the constitutionality of a drone strike on an American citizen on American soil. “We’re talking about someone eating at a café in Boston, or New York and a Hellfire missile comes raining in on them,” said Paul in a letter to Brennan’s office. His inquiries were mostly ignored.

Previously this week, Attorney General Eric Holder finally returned a letter to Paul arguing that drone strikes on American soil were “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely.” This message, however, only seemed to make the issue worse, as Paul insisted on confirmation that a drone strike of this nature would be unjustified and unconstitutional.

Although Paul has been attempting to raise the issue for a few days, media coverage was slim. That changed today as #filiblizzard and #randpaul took Twitter by storm. Conservatives across the country rallied to support Paul, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined in for support. At one point, the filibuster took on a bipartisan nature when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) joined in. Although Wyden had previously expressed support for Brennan’s nomination, he articulated similar concerns with the drone policy, “I want it understood that I have great respect for this effort to really ask these kinds of questions … And Sen. Paul has certainly been digging into these issues in great detail.”

Paul began the filibuster with, “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.”

Although this type of speaking filibuster has not been used since December 2010, the filibuster has remained an important characteristic of Senate practice.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) failed to end the filibuster, he dismissed the other senators: “Everyone should plan on coming tomorrow. We’re through for the night.”

Paul, however, will continue speaking into the night.

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