Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster of the Patriot Act on Wednesday lasted nearly 11 hours on the Senate floor, ending shortly before midnight.
The Republican presidential candidate took control of the floor in the afternoon at 1:18 p.m., explaining that he is filibustering the renewal of the Patriot Act because of the National Security Agency’s program that collects bulk phone record data of American citizens.
I've just taken the senate floor to begin a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal. It's time to end the NSA spying!
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015
“The government shouldn’t have the ability to get that information unless they have suspicion,” Paul said on the floor Wednesday. “Unless they have probable cause you committed a crime.”
In a campaign email to supporters, posted online by a reporter from Time magazine, Paul said: “I will not rest. I will not back down. I will not yield one inch in this fight so long as my legs can stand.”
Here’s how a Paul campaign aide described the marathon speech: “Sen. Rand Paul has taken the floor of the U.S. Senate to filibuster the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Senator Paul is a staunch defender of liberty and believes Americans have a right to privacy. The U.S. government has no place conducting these warrantless searches and should focus on gathering intelligence on suspected terrorists and foreign actors.”
Paul likely doesn’t have the votes to stop the extension. But, through his filibuster, he is delaying a vote on it. Through this dramatic gesture, Paul is able to draw attention to the issue and his presidential campaign.
There was debate about whether Paul’s speech constituted an actual filibuster of the Patriot Act, considering the legislation was not actually up for a vote yet on the floor while he was speaking. Paul aides, however, are arguing that it was, sending press releases out bolstering their argument, and saying the speech temporarily delayed the Senate from moving ahead with the legislation.
“Because of Senator Paul’s ten and a half hour filibuster, the Senate adjourned late last night without moving to proceed to the reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” an aide said early Thursday morning.
While Paul was on the floor, aides uploaded a video to social media of the Republican saying: “I’ve chosen to filibuster the Patriot Act because the Patriot Act is the most un-patriotic of acts.”
Exclusive video that answers the question: why a filibuster? https://t.co/4HxwQn0IEw
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015
Not all Republicans are thrilled to see Paul on the Senate floor. New York Rep. Peter King, a foreign policy hawk who often criticizes Paul, tweeted that Paul’s “rant” is “more irrational than ever.”
Rand Paul's rant on senate floor vs NSA more irrational than ever – very damaging to American security! Why does anyone listen to him?
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 20, 2015
One of Paul’s potential opponents in the GOP presidential primary, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said of skeptics of the NSA program on Monday: “Let me be clear — all these fears are baloney. When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy.”
“They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie said. “They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the ‘Bourne Identity’ or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.”
As he delivered his extended remarks, Paul mostly spoke off-the-cuff, roaming around his desk on the floor. At times, he put on glasses and read from binders stacked on desks.
“Anytime someone tries to tell you that meta-data is meaningless – ‘Don’t worry. It’s just who you call. Just your phone records. It’s not a big deal’ – realize we kill people based on meta-data,” Paul said on the floor.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who along with Paul is fighting the Patriot Act extension, joined the senator for the filibuster about two and a half hours in. Wyden interrupted Paul to ask a series of long questions, allowing Paul to take a break from speaking.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee and New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich also joined Paul on the floor to ask questions.
Through social media, supporters of Paul planned to gather on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday night to demonstrate support.
Paul’s position puts him at odds — and in an awkward position — with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The GOP leader, a fellow Kentuckian, endorsed Paul’s presidential campaign but is pushing for a full extension of the Patriot Act, including the provisions allowing for the NSA’s bulk collection program.
On Monday, Paul previewed the filibuster, holding a press conference in Philadelphia and calling on Obama to end the NSA’s program.
“Here in front of Independence Hall, I call for the president to obey the law,” he said Monday. “The court said last week that it is illegal to collect all of your phone records, all of the time, without a warrant with your name on it. I call on the president today to immediately end the bulk collection of our phone records.”
The Patriot Act expires June 1, meaning Congress needs to reauthorize the program to keep it going before lawmakers leave town for the Memorial Day recess.
Asked on Monday whether he would filibuster the upcoming vote on the extension of the Patriot Act, which the NSA uses to carry out the bulk collection program, Paul told reporters: “I will do everything possible. The rules are tricky in the Senate, so I don’t know what I can promise. But we will do everything possible, including filibustering the Patriot Act, to stop that.”
This isn’t Paul’s first filibuster: in 2013, he filibustered the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA for 13 hours, talking about drones and the Bill of Rights.
Doug Stafford, a top political adviser to Paul, said on Twitter Wednesday afternoon the lawmaker is wearing shoes that are “more comfortable than last time.”
A reporter in the chamber confirmed Paul’s choice of a “comfy pair of sneakers with bright neon laces.”
what you can't see on CSPAN is Paul, who has to keep standing to hold the floor, is wearing a comfy pair of sneakers with bright neon laces
— Dan Roberts (@RobertsDan) May 20, 2015