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Rand Paul Ends Filibuster After Nearly 13 Hours

Mar 7, 2013

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Just before noon yesterday, with much of Washington at home for a snowstorm that never really materialized, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the floor of the Senate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan's nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak.

MONTAGNE: That time came early this morning, nearly 13 hours later. To discuss what this was all about, we turn to NPR's congressional correspondent Tamara Keith, who joins us right now. Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So as we heard, Senator Paul was taking a stand against John Brennan's nomination. What was his main concern?

KEITH: He wants the president to say that he won't use drones to kill Americans on American soil. And the White House responded to his questions this week with a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, but Paul didn't like the answer. And since he talked about it for hours and hours and hours, I say let's just listen to his explanation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PAUL: The answers that we've gotten are almost more disturbing than getting an answer, really, to tell you the truth. Because when the president responds that I haven't killed any Americans yet at home, and that I don't intend to do so, but I might, it's incredibly alarming. It really goes against his oath of office.

MONTAGNE: So he read from the Holder letter repeatedly. He started quoting from articles and blogs about drones and the drone industry. And then he started asking questions like: If a drone can be used to kill an American overseas for inciting terrorism, where do you draw the line?

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PAUL: It's one thing if you want to try her for treason, but are you just going to drop a drone hellfire missile on Jane Fonda? Are you going to drop a hellfire missile on those at Kent State?

MONTAGNE: So he's talking about pretty past-tense history there, but still, you get the idea. Why the filibuster?

KEITH: Thirteen hours. He talked about a lot of things.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Anything he can grab. Why the filibuster?

KEITH: He admitted that he didn't have the votes to block the Brennan nomination. He felt like this drone issue is important and not getting enough attention. And so really, all he could do to keep it going was go to the floor and hold the floor indefinitely to talk about this.

MONTAGNE: Now, filibustering senators are notorious, as you just said, for doing whatever they can do to fill the time. And decades ago, Strom Thurmond famously read the phone book during his filibuster of the Civil Rights Act. What about Rand Paul?

KEITH: No phone book, no oyster recipes. He stood there - he had to stay on the floor the entire time. He did eat a few candy bars as time went on, but he really stayed on message. He continued the whole time to talk about drones. He did get some help from some of his colleagues who came out, and they're allowed to ask questions. Some of those questions lasted a very long time. Ted Cruz of Texas read tweets on the Senate floor. And there was ultimately a hashtag, #standwithrand. And then he moved on to Shakespeare. And Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, he quoted rap lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

REPRESENTATIVE MARCO RUBIO: Let me just begin by quoting a modern-day poet. His name is Wiz Khalifa. He has a song called "Work Hard Play Hard." I think if you look at the time, I think it's a time when many of our colleagues expected to be home, back in the home state playing hard, but I'm happy that we're here still working hard on this issue.

MONTAGNE: OK. So what, if anything, did this accomplish?

KEITH: Rand Paul got a lot of attention to the issue of drones and their potential use in America. He ultimately got Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to come out on the floor with him, and many others. And it's possible that he could actually garner some more support to try and block the nomination. We'll see about that.

And also, he got attention for himself. He's a potential 2016 candidate. And then just lots of adoration on the floor, ultimately, when it all ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PAUL: I thank you very much for the forbearance, and I yield the floor.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Mr. President, the senator from Illinois.

(Soundbite of applause)

There will be order. Expressions of approval or disapproval are not permitted in the Senate.

KEITH: He said his legs hurt, everything hurt, and he didn't say it outright, but I'm pretty sure he had to go to the bathroom.

MONTAGNE: NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks very much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.