This post has been updated.
Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’s filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency ended after nearly 13 hours on Thursday morning over a contentious debate on civil liberties, namely whether the Obama administration could employ drone strikes on American soil.
“I’ve discovered there are some limits to filibustering, and I’m going to have to take care of one of those in a few minutes,” Paul said to laughter, before yielding the floor at 12:39am ET on Thursday.
Paul began his speech at about 11:37am ET, demanding an answer from the White House if it deemed permissible under any circumstances to order drone strikes within the United States.
“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,” he said in his opening remarks.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), one of two Democrats who joined in on the discussion, officially filed cloture on the nomination moments after Paul yielded the floor. While Paul said he intends to continue debate, a Senate aide told TPM that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hopes to reach an agreement with Republicans on a final vote on Thursday. Brennan’s nomination is expected to pass by a comfortable margin.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky, also joined in the filibuster. McConnell offered no hints as to his view on the administration’s policy on targeted killing as it relates to United States soil, but he added that he will oppose cloture should it be invoked.
Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, urged all senators at one point to “please go to the floor and help out” Paul. In total, 14 other Senators spoke on the floor.
The last “talking” filibuster in the Senate occurred in 2010 when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) rose to speak for more than eight hours against extending Bush-era tax cuts. Paul superceded that length of time. The record for longest filibuster is held by Strom Thurmond, who in 1957 railed against the Civil Rights Act for over 24 hours.
Paul yielded time for questions to several Republican senators, including one Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who aided the Kentucky senator intermittedly in demanding more information on whether the administration carried authority to target Americans within the United States using drone strikes.
Two Republican senators, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, even joined Paul for comments on the floor before meeting President Obama for dinner at Jefferson Hotel in Washington.
In order to reserve his right to speak, Senate rules dictate that Paul had to remain standing on the floor at all times. At one point during the evening, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) emerged on the floor and delivered Paul a hot thermos and an apple, an apparent reference to the classic film ‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.’
Paul munched on candy several times during his remarks for sustenance, reportedly scarfing down Milky Way bars between sentences.
Because electronic devices are not permitted on the floor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) twice joined Paul to report what people were saying on Twitter, or the “Twitterverse.”
“I think the technical term for what the Twitterverse is doing right now is called ‘blowing up,'” Cruz said on the floor, reading tweets featuring the trending hashtag #StandWithRand.
“I want to provide an in-person Twitter feed for you,” he added later, pro-longing the filibuster.
Paul thanked Cruz, a newly elected Senator, for cheering him up with news from the outside world. “I was getting kind of tired,” he said.
Newly elected senators traditionally address issues close to their heart in what is billed as a “maiden speech,” their first speech on the Senate floor. Notably, Sens. Cruz, Tim Scott (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), all freshmen senators, gave up that rite of passage in order to lend Paul assistance.
At one point in his remarks, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) quoted lyrics from rappers Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z, and dialogue from the film “The Godfather.”
Earlier in the night, Paul called for a vote on a non-binding resolution stipulating the Senate’s opposition to the use of drones in the United States. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was present in the chamber, objected. Instead, he offered Paul an opportunity to testify at a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on drone warfare to be held in the near future. Not satisfied, a visibly tired Paul resumed the fight.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also tried derailing Paul. He called for a direct vote on Brennan’s nomination by unanimous consent earlier Wednesday, but was rebuffed earlier Wednesday.
The Senate reconvenes at 10:00am ET on Thursday.
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