WASHINGTON—Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has staged the first talking filibuster in two years on the Senate floor to block a vote on President Barack Obama’s nomination for CIA director.
Paul began his speech at 11:47 a.m. and has refused to quit speaking until the Obama administration commits to not killing non-enemy combatants on American soil.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” he said. “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.”
Obama’s nominee for CIA chief, John Brennan, has come under withering criticism since the president picked him two months ago. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, has overseen the Obama administration’s controversial drone program, which has been increasingly used to accomplish Obama’s terrorism objectives.
“This isn’t ultimately about the nomination; it’s about something bigger,” Paul said as he neared the seven-hour mark without yielding the floor. “We shouldn’t be asking how he’s going to run the drone program, we should be telling him how he’s going to run the drone program.”
Paul’s speech gained momentum throughout the day, as hashtags “#StandWithRand,” “#RandPaul,” and “#filibuster” have trended on Twitter. “#RandPaul is asking a legit question of [Attorney General Eric] Holder,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “Why so hard for them to just give straight answer? Almost like they feel it is beneath them.”
Rubio was one of several senators who joined Paul in speaking on the floor, and it became a bipartisan effort mid-afternoon. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. all engaged Paul with questions and dialogue on the issue of drone strikes. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., delivered an apple and a thermos to Paul.
At 7:26 p.m., seven-and-a-half hours into the filibuster, Cruz re-entered the floor to offer Paul encouragement by reading page after page of supportive tweets from Twitter. Cruz said since cellphones are not allowed on the Senate floor, Paul would have no idea of the nationwide support he was receiving. “Our rights matter,” Cruz said.
Brennan retired in 2005 after 25 years with the CIA and became CEO of The Analysis Corporation, a security consulting firm near Washington, D.C. During the George W. Bush administration, he was tied to the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
In an interview on ABC’s This Week last year, Brennan said, “Unfortunately, sometimes you have to take life to save lives, and that’s what we’ve been able to do to prevent these individual terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks.”
UPDATE: Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, 12 hours and 52 minutes after he began speaking, Sen. Rand Paul yielded the floor of the U.S. Senate. His final words were greeted with an eruption of applause from Republican senators and House members who had gathered in the upper chamber to show support for Paul's efforts.