Yesterday Rand Paul spent a little under 13 hours talking on the Senate floor engaged in an old school filibuster to protest John Brennan’s nomination as the head of the CIA and the drone program he has come to represent. You have to applaud his efforts for several reasons. The first of which is that he engaged in an old school filibuster by actually standing and talking for hours. David Weigel for Slate writes:
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley watched this unfold with deep sympathy and deeper irony. Not two months had passed since the Senate bucked him—and 50 of his peers—and punted on filibuster reform. Most modern filibusters consist of 41 (or more) senators voting “no” on cloture, preventing debate on a nomination or bill. Merkley and a posse of young senators wanted to alter that so that every filibuster meant standing up and “talking through the weekend,” really debating each other.
During his filibuster Rand Paul touched on this saying:
This is the first time that I’ve decided to come to the floor and speak in a true filibuster. People talk about the filibuster all the time, they say the filibuster is overused and it’s abused. A lot of times the filibuster in our country and in the Senate is actually requesting the 60 votes happen and we have to do everything by unanimous consent, so it almost never happens. I’ve been here two years and I don’t think I’ve seen anybody come to the floor and speak in an open and spoken filibuster as I am today.
What Sen. Rand Paul was doing is what a filibuster is meant to be about. Instead of just blocking the passage of legislation he was taking a stand against a questionable policy and presidential stonewalling. He was never going to stop Brennan’s nomination but he was able to draw attention to the problems of the drone program and to remind everyone about the importance of the Fifth Amendment and rule of law.
The bar for good conduct is low in this Senate, but even still, Paul’s filibuster is an encouraging development.
For more, see Conor Friedersdorf (who was cited several times in Paul’s speech).