Five hours into Sen. Rand Paul’s old-fashioned, hold-the-floor filibuster Wednesday, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid came to the floor to try to end the affair, asking whether Mr. Paul would settle for going only 30 more minutes before the chamber voted on confirmation of a CIA director.
Nothing doing, said Mr. Paul — not until he got assurances from the Obama administration that it will not use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
“I would be happy with the vote now — I’ve talked a lot today — but the only thing I would like is clarification, if the president or the attorney general would clarify they’re not going to kill noncombatants in America,” Mr. Paul said.
Mr. Paul took the floor at 11:47 a.m. Wednesday and didn’t yield until almost 1 a.m. the next morning, wrapping up almost 13 hours of Senate drama that became an instant sensation on the Internet, especially on Twitter, where “#StandWithRand” was among the top U.S. hashtags all afternoon and evening.
Mr. Paul, a Kentucky Republican in his third year in the Senate and contemplating a presidential bid in 2016, raised his national profile, pushed the issue of drone executions into the public spotlight — and drew comparisons to the Texas heroes who fought in the Battle of the Alamo, which had its anniversary Wednesday.
“It is a brilliant policy and political statement,” one Republican strategist said. “He instantly becomes the man to beat in 2016.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, was first, coming to the floor along with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
Together, they asked Mr. Paul questions, allowing him to keep the floor while giving his voice a rest. Later in the day, Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and a potential 2016 candidate, also came to the floor to take part, as did Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who makes common cause with Mr. Paul on the drone issue.
Democratic leaders, though, wouldn’t give an inch to Mr. Paul.
More than seven hours in, he offered to shut down his filibuster if he could get the Senate to hold a vote on a nonbinding resolution stating the Senate opposed targeted killings of noncombatant Americans on U.S. soil.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2-ranking Democrat, blocked that deal, saying such a vote was “premature.”
He instead offered to hold hearings.