WASHINGTON — Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul ended his 10-and-a-half hour filibuster of the USA Freedom Act. Paul spoke to reporters after he walked off the floor shortly before midnight, saying he was tired, his voice was going out, and he was ready to go home.
“I think we accomplished something by having [this discussion]. And it was kind of nice to have bipartisan support and have people come down,” he said. “I think there’s unanimity among a lot of us that the bulk collection ought to end. And I think as we went through the arguments, I think it’s pretty clear that nobody that’s really being honest with themselves believes that the Patriot Act really justifies this.”
The USA Freedom Act contains a measure that would extend the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, which collects bulk metadata of phone calls made by Americans.
Paul gave no indication to Senate leadership he would take the floor, placing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian, in an awkward situation.
Although Paul took the floor for the majority of the legislative day, did he really accomplish anything?
“I think so,” he answered. “I think it’s delayed it for another day now, because they’re not going to do anything after midnight. I think it delays it a day so it does give us a little more leverage.”
“I’m trying to demand votes,” Paul continued. “I think also depending on what the reaction of what the public is — if the public reacts in a good way, maybe they’ll be more inclined to give me votes.”
Two Republican presidential candidates, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, were in the upper chamber during the filibuster. Rubio presided in the chair and made no comments in support of Paul, while Cruz joined Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee on the floor around 11:30 p.m.
Sen. Paul, however, told The Daily Caller he appreciates the support of Cruz and Lee. “We’re not exactly on the same page, but I think we are all opponents of the bulk collection of records.”
Paul had his critics, too. New York Republican Rep. Peter King told The Daily Caller early Wednesday night, “He’s totally wrong. He’s irresponsible, and he’s hurting our national security.”
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe appeared irritated by Paul’s filibuster, because it forced South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds, a freshman, to cancel his maiden floor speech.
“I went over there, because Sen. Mike Rounds was supposed to give his maiden speech at 5 ‘o clock and he had already primed all the media,” Inhofe told TheDC, noting how long Rounds has waited to get into the floor schedule. “Of course he can’t do it now. It’s just a discourteous thing to be doing.”
Rounds was previously scheduled to introduce the bipartisan RESTORE Resolution, which aims at permanently ending agency overregulation, but Paul’s filibuster canceled Round’s speech.
A bipartisan letter of 60 house members sent a letter to Senate leadership criticizing the changes made to the USA Freedom Act bill that was passed in the House last week.
Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis was one of 29 Democrats to sign the letter. He told TheDC, “Well I just think it’s the right thing to do. We went through [government surveillance] during the height of the civil rights movement with the federal government spying on many of us, and I don’t like the invasion of privacy.”
Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, another co-signer, agreed, telling TheDC “I think the bill that passed the House needed some changes and that was the gist of it. I think Democrats are standing on principle on this issue.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wished that the Senate would just pass the same bill approved by the lower chamber “with overwhelming bipartisan support.”
“It’s unfortunate that our leadership is not on the same page on this one,” he said adding, “Obviously, we passed a different bill than what McConnell is pushing for, and I think you’re probably going to see a filibuster now, and I think at the end of the day, they’ll end up passing our bill, which I think would have been a better strategy in the first place.”
Paul made reassurances that his relationship with McConnell is not damaged, however. “We have a good relationship. We are friends. We disagree on this issue, and I’m able to take disagreement. We have disagreements in our caucus all the time. I don’t think this will hurt our friendship,” he told TheDC as he left the Capitol for the night.