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Live Blog: Rand Paul’s Talking Filibuster of John Brennan

Around noon Rand Paul began speaking on the Senate floor to filibuster the president’s nominee for CIA director John Brennan. Watch him go on C-SPAN 2 here. As reported yesterday by Mother Jones, Eric Holder confirmed to Sen. Paul that he does believe that there are circumstances under which drone assassinations on American soil could […]

Around noon Rand Paul began speaking on the Senate floor to filibuster the president’s nominee for CIA director John Brennan. Watch him go on C-SPAN 2 here.

As reported yesterday by Mother Jones, Eric Holder confirmed to Sen. Paul that he does believe that there are circumstances under which drone assassinations on American soil could be constitutional:

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Paul responded in a statement:

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans”

Check back for updates here.

[I’ve removed the filibuster clock that was once here, because it kept running after it ended. The total length was just shy of 13 hours.]

 1:25 — “I’ve been here for two years… I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone come to the floor to speak in an open and spoken filibuster.”

1:40 — Huffington Post is impressed:

Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 1.36.41 PM

1:42 — References to Lysander Spooner’s abolitionism (specifically “The Unconstitutionality of Slavery“) and Lochner v New York.

1:47 — “I don’t think it’s an idle question whether we have a democracy or a republic.”

1:50 — Justin Raimondo, noted Rand Paul critic:

 1:52 — On to the Fifth Amendment 1:56 — “We currently have no geographic limit [on the Afghan war] and no temporal limit.”  

1:58 —  

2:00 — ‎“If our country is now a war zone, what’s left? I thought we were fighting to preserve our way, I thought we were fighting to preserve our Constitution!”  

2:05 — Drudge with the joke that everyone’s been making on Twitter: Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 2.05.04 PM

2:06 — “It’s hard to worship when there’s a hellfire missile coming down on you.”

2:10 —  

2:15 — “Ultimately, I can’t win. There’s not enough votes.”

2:20 — On to privacy and cybersecurity, specifically Paul’s latest concern with third-party disclosures of personal information.

2:24 — “I become a little worried when the president says imminent does not have to mean immediate … when we kill them they’re not usually involved in combat.”

2:26 — If only, Erick.  

2:30 — “I don’t believe that Obama will drop a bomb on a cafe, but it bothers me that he won’t say that he won’t”  

2:38 — The rare liberals who will support Rand Paul on drones and the rule of law (paging Scott McConnell):  

2:40 — The Constitution “as a document that restrains the government” has been lost on a lot of people.

2:44 — Mediaite reports that Ted Cruz bullied Eric Holder into admitting drone strikes on American soil are unconstitutional. When you need a china shop destroyed, bulls can be useful.

2:47 — We’re getting pretty off-topic here, but eminent domain abuse is an important problem.

2:51 — The answer should not have been no [we won’t assassinate Americans on American soil] it should have been never”  

2:53 — “Is our country a battlefield? Because you get no due process in a battlefield. To those who would say it’s a battlefield: The hell it’s a battlefield, this is our country!” Reinforcements:  

2:57 — Approaching three hours. Brian Doherty notes he has six hours to go to break Bernie Sanders’ record.  

Paul admits, as he speaks to an empty floor and a nation in front of their computers and TV sets, that he’s almost certainly not going to beat the Brennan nomination. But he’s unique, alas, among modern politicians in believing that standing up for the rights of Americans to not be summarily murdered is worth doing, at whatever political cost.

3:00 — Yep.  


3:07 — Sen. Paul passes the baton to Sen. Mike Lee.  

3:15 — Sen. Lee asks Paul about questioning of Eric Holder earlier today.

3:22 — Paul acknowledges a question from Sen. Cruz. Cruz says he’s “like a modern Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” “must be making Jimmy Stewart smile,” brings up the earlier hearing in which Holder acknowledged the unconstitutionality of domestic drone strikes. Cruz is far less committed–in fact he’s completely uncommitted–to the less-interventionist foreign policy of Paul, but he’s clearly willing to make a political issue out of drones. In other words, he doesn’t see much connection between the two.

3:25 — Paul asks for confirmation from Holder in writing. Also the administration’s public endorsement of a bill barring domestic drone use in the absence of an imminent threat.

3:29 — White House has declined to comment on the filibuster.  




3:34 — Paul, Lee, and Cruz throwing questions back and forth. They can keep this going for a while. Read Kevin Glass’s write-up on some of the conservative writers Paul mentioned–Kevin Williamson and Conor Friedersdorf–and why he’s filibustering.

3:37 — Sen. Jerry Moran asking questions, getting in on the action. Where are the anti-drone liberal senators? Wyden? Sanders?

3:42 —  

3:49Is Rand Paul still talking? (h/t @LibbyJ)

3:52 — Ted Cruz talking about the anniversary of the Alamo: “I have no doubt that Texans are proud to see the distinguished Senator for Kentucky as a native-born Texan, fighting so valiantly for liberty. Serving as such a clarion voice for liberty, at a time when it seems like liberty has few champions. … If those brave patriots of the Alamo were here, William Barret Travis .. David Crockett … would be standing side by side with you, and would be proud to call you brother.” Paul says he hopes to have the opportunity to recite William Barret Travis’ famous speech before the filibuster ends.

3:56 — Approaching the four-hour mark Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden is on the way. Tim Carney says that could be big, coverage-wise.

3:59 — The New York Times’ editorial page says it’s self-indulgent to hold up a CIA nominee pending clarification about whether American citizens can be executed without due process.

4:01 — Cruz recites Travis’ letter at the Alamo, asks if it gives Paul “sustenance.” Ron Wyden takes the podium.  

4:06 — Wyden says Paul has made “a number of important points.” NRO rounds up some good clips over on their live blog.

4:25 — Sen. Marco Rubio on the floor now, notably defending the procedural prerogatives of the Senate rather than Paul’s positions. His office told reporters earlier today that he was snowed in. “Let me give u some free advice, keep some water nearby … trust me.” Responding to Rubio asking whether the filibuster was about ideological opposition or getting a straight response, Paul said “I’ve actually voted for several of the President’s nominations” Jim DeMint has tweeted his support, and Justin Amash is on the way.

4:40 — We’ve entered some kind of alternate universe in which Rand Paul quotes Charlie Pierce: “Every four years we elect a new criminal because that’s become the job description.”

4:42 — Sen. Saxby Chambliss now filibustering, says Paul’s question is eminently reasonable. He is having dinner with the President tonight.

4:55 — Sen. Harry Reid moves to end debate, seeks cloture vote: “I have no problem with people who want to talk for a long time… I think this body wants to know if we’re going to finish tonight.” Paul declines, says the administration can end this whenever it wants by saying it doesn’t have the authority to kill Americans without trial. We’ve passed five hours.

5:01 — Sen. Pat Toomey joins the fight. That makes seven senators supporting Paul.

5:06 — The first hour is now on YouTube. He’s been repeating lines for a while now, but just to recap, here’s the rub:  

I will speak today until the President responds and says no, we won’t kill Americans in cafes; no, we won’t kill you at home in your bed at night; no, we won’t drop bombs on restaurants. Is that so hard?

5:20 — “When people tell you that America is a battlefield, they’re telling you the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply.” “Do we really live in Alice’s Wonderland? For goodness sake, you can’t sentence someone before you try them.”

5:23 — The other Texas senator joins the filibuster, making nine total.

5:29 — Jacob Heilbrunn defends Rand Paul:

His decision to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA is right-on. Brennan is a slippery character who has oiled his way up both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. His answers about his knowledge of CIA torture during the Bush administration were evasive and unconvincing and his nomination should never be approved. Now Paul is calling him out on the administration’s secret drone war policy in particular and its contempt for civil libertes in general.



5:39 — If this whole filibusiness has moved you to donate to the NRSC, they’re now using it for a fundraising pitch.

5:58 — Into hour six. #StandwithRand is now trending nationally, according to Anonymous.

6:04 — BI’s Grace Wyler rounds up the ten best lines so far. But what about the Alice and wonderland references and Ted Cruz’s Alamo speech?

6:23 — Paul is still going, mostly on his own now. He’s clearly getting tired, and was just handed a candy bar. When someone posts a .gif of him eating it, you can be assured I’ll post it here. [No .gif yet, but here’s a video]

6:44 — Jerry Moran is back, and Paul looks like he could use the break.




The ACLU makes a strong statement in favor of Paul’s filibuster to Ben Shapiro.

6:59 — Paul reads a resolution expressing the senate’s opposition to domestic drone strikes and asking for White House clarification. Doesn’t do anything with it, but Harry Reid is reportedly in the chamber.

7:17 — Asks for unanimous consent to schedule a vote on both his resolution and Brennan. “It’s important to know that the majority party is going to object.”

7:20 — Durbin objects, says the resolution is unnecessary because a hearing on drones is scheduled, invites Paul to testify.

7:57 — Heading into the ninth hour, after Cruz returned to read some tweets, saying “the twitterverse is exploding.”  



8:07 — Back to privacy: “Just because they’ve got the technology to see you in your hot tub, does that mean they have the right to know what you’re doing?”

8:20 — Paul says he owned Fruit of the Loom stock. The president is at dinner with some other Republicans right now, but what else was he doing today that prevented him from responding? Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 8.08.09 PM

8:26 — More on posse comitatus. Dave Weigel on why the Dems want all filibusters to work this way.




“It’s not the technology that we’re opposed to … I’d think farmers or ranchers might want to use drones.” Paul now parsing proper and improper uses of drones, confusing and arbitrary guidelines about hobbyist vs for-profit drone use. 8:55 — Sen. Lee is back, reading the letter from AG Holder. 10:04 — 



10:10 — Sen Ted Cruz: “the last time the senator and I had a colloquy,” as he prepares to read tweets. He’s doing it again. Commenters: Is this beneath the dignity of the senate? Someone needs to autotune Cruz’s solemn recitations of the hashtag #standwithrand.

10:15 — Tweet: “This is a line in the sand drawn with a quill pen.” Cruz: “I think that one’s particularly cool.”

10:17 — Cruz says the desk he sitting in, once used by Barry Goldwater “animates” his five o-clock shadow.

10:20 — Quote: “May the spirits of past patriots fuel you.” “We have an unlimited, imperial presidency.” Cruz: “so true.” “Stand with Rand is trending worldwide.” 

10:27 — We have reported sightings of Kit-Kats, Mike n’ Ikes, and some sort of candy bar. 

Check out a map.

10:30 — Cruz: Senators who “heeded” the “twitterverse” reminded him of Henry V, reads St. Crispin’s Day monologue. Now he’s reading Patton’s Normandy speech.

11:15 — Paul, back to Cruz: A struggle “not between Republicans and Democrats” but between the “president and the Constitution.”

11:18 — Rubio’s up, again. Says he’s going to quote Wiz Khalifa’s “Work Hard, Play Hard.” “Imagine what the conversation would be like” if George W. Bush were president, gives Paul credit that he’d still be doing the same thing. Clarifies, again, that this is just about getting answers.

11:27 — Sen. John Thune joins the filibuster.

11:40 — Big news: Mitch McConnell jumps in. Says he will oppose cloture.

12:22 — Sen. Pat Toomey came back. Dick Durbin took the floor a little while ago to defend the administration’s position in the context of extreme events like 9/11.

We’ve had Ron Johnson, Tim Scott, and now Jeff Flake come to the floor. Reince Preibus issues a directive:

And look who weighed in:

Durbin comes back to ask whether Bin Laden was an imminent threat. Paul says the standard at home should be different.

We’ve passed twelve hours and the GOP is now officially supporting Paul’s filibuster, #standwithrand is trending worldwide, Mitch McConnell has promised to vote against cloture, and the Senate chamber is reportedly nearly full. Checking out for the evening, good night everyone.

*** Final update for the night: Rand Paul has bowed to the demands of nature, after 12 hours of historic debate. Stay tuned (in the morning) to see what comes it.

Paul reportedly said: “I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here.”

[Note: Time-stamps might be about ten minutes ahead of the actual time because my desktop clock is funny. Also, they refer to actual times, not time since filibuster began.]