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Rand Paul Ends Filibuster After Nearly 13 Hours


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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.