What Paul Hath Wrought


So what’s next after Rand Paul’s 13-hour-long filibuster marathon?

First the technical stuff. Once Paul yielded the floor in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) filed cloture on John Brennan’s nomination to be director of the CIA. That sets up, at the very latest, a Saturday vote to end debate and put Brennan on the glide path to confirmation.

It could happen earlier if Paul and other objecting senators decide their concerns have been addressed. But what made the filibuster such a remarkable and rare success is that the vote might now fail if Eric Holder and the Obama administration don’t provide Paul an answer to his question by Saturday.

That’s not how the world looked yesterday morning.Indeed, the only reason Paul — or any senator — would begin a marathon session like that is because he knew (or believed) the votes were there to end the Brennan debate and these were the only means at his disposal to slow the confirmation process down, and maybe marshal public pressure to convince other senators to join him.

As you saw yesterday, he used that tool to great effect. I imagine now that, for a combination of partisan and institutional purposes, Republicans will withhold their votes for cloture until Paul is satisfied that the administration has addressed his question of whether it considers it permissible under any circumstances to order drone strikes within the United States.

I’ll have some more thoughts later today on why Paul’s effort was such a success while other recent examples of senators exercising the same power with the same passion ultimately fizzled out.