In December 2010, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) conducted the longest talking filibuster in 27 years, speaking for 8.5 hours in opposition to President Obama’s tax deal with Republicans — a speech Sanders later turned into a book.
On Wednesday into Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) busted the “Filibernie” record — by far, at 12 hours and 54 minutes — as he demanded answers from the Obama administration on policy regarding domestic drone strikes.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak. 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,” Paul began.
“That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country,” he said. “I don’t rise to oppose John Brennan’s nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle.”
The filibuster against the CIA director nomination began at 11:47 a.m. Wednesday, on a Hill sparsely populated because of the snowstorm outside.
Hence, Paul’s effort quickly took on the name “Filiblizzard,” with its own Twitter account. Like Sanders, Paul rapidly was honored with a site tracking his filibuster, IsRandPaulStillTalking.com.
“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?” Paul said. “It’s amazing that the president will not respond. I’ve been asking this question for a month. It’s like pulling teeth to get the president to respond to anything. And I get no answer.”
And as the #StandWithRand hashtag reigned on Twitter, and more Republicans filtered onto the Senate floor to help out Paul, it became clear that Paul didn’t just make a point on civil liberties but breathed some chutzpah into his party. Unlike historical filibusters that have included phone-book or cookbook reading to fill time, the senator stayed on topic the entire time. Supportive House members came into the upper chamber and cheered on the son of their former lower chamber colleague.
“Sending strength and prayer to @SenRandPaul for him to ‘Drone’ on and on!” tweeted Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).
This monumental moment for the Senate GOP, though, was muddled by the evening absence of a dozen Republicans who enjoyed a three-hour secretive dinner at the Jefferson Hotel with President Obama: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-S.C.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
According to the White House, Obama picked up the check for the party.
Chambliss and Toomey helped Paul with his filibuster before or after the dinner. Later on the floor, Johnson said the meeting was an “excellent dinner.”
“This evening at our meeting with the president, we had an opportunity to express our views on the challenging task of getting our nation’s fiscal house in order,” Hoeven said in a statement. McCain and Coburn each flashed a thumb’s up to reporters staking out the hotel as they left.
Though eating is not allowed on the Senate floor, Paul took nibbles of snacks at points, continuing to read his notes while chewing. Mid-filibuster, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) put an apple and a thermos full of green tea on Paul’s desk in a nod to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; the Senate sergeant-at-arms later had the snack removed per the rules.