Majority Leader Harry Reid was looking forward to a quick and easy confirmation of CIA chief nominee John Brennan today. But at 11:45 a.m., Senator Rand Paul took the floor of the Senate to talk about the dangers posed by the government’s seemingly unfettered ability to use drones on its own citizens. Over three hours later, his old-timey filibuster is still going, and it’s not clear when he’s going to stop.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” he said at the start of his remarks. “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.”
(You can watch it here for as long as it lasts.)
Update, 5:05 p.m.: Paul is still talking, although he did take a few breaks. Without relinquishing the floor, Paul passed off for a few minutes at a time to fellow Republicans, including Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, as well as Democrat Ron Wyden — another of the Senate’s strong proponents of civil liberties. Harry Reid made something of a halfhearted attempt to end the filibuster, but failed.
Update, 11:11 p.m.: Amazingly, Paul is still at it, entering his 11th hour on the floor. But this is 2013, so Paul not only has to command the Senate floor, he has to command Twitter, and with electronics banned from the floor he and his allies have turned to a mash-up of old school filibustering and new media that has created a sort of feedback loop. Paul’s aides are tweeting on his behalf, and during one of his breaks, Sen. Ted Cruz got up to read some tweets lauding his crusade, including one from Paul, which he’d printed out on a piece of paper. “I think the technical term for what the twitter verse is doing right now is ‘blowing up,’” Cruz said. He’s right. The hashtag #StandWithRand is trending like a maniac. The video of Cruz reading the tweets is oddly mesmerizing.
Update, 12 a.m.: We’ve just passed the 12-hour mark, making this filibuster about half as long as the 24-hour and 18-minute record set by Strom Thurmond, opposing the Civil Rights Act in 1957. The question of how Paul is going to keep himself going, physically, is worth asking — in particular, how will he go to the bathroom. Thurmond is said to have taken a steam bath before his effort, in order to drain himself of liquid. He’s also rumored to have worn a catheter. We still don’t know how Paul is doing it, but they make all kinds of equipment for that these days, so it may be he’s got a little help.
Update 12:45 a.m.: Paul finally yielded the floor after 12 hours and 52 minutes, saying, “I’ve discovered there are some limits to filibustering and I’m gonna have to go take care of one of those in a little bit.” Meanwhile, the Senate has adjourned to 10 a.m. tomorrow. Plenty of time for a foot rub and a sandwich for Sen. Paul.