Rand Paul Ends 10-Hour Filibuster Protesting Patriot Act Extensions

Rand Paul, the Junior Senator from Kentucky, squared off against his own party on Wednesday, May 20, on the subject of extending the Patriot Act.

Key components of the legislation dealing with the collection of private data about citizens of the United States are scheduled to expire unless the Senate takes action this week, and Rand Paul spent more than ten hours in a filibuster clearly designed to bring attention to the issue, not necessarily to block the legislative process.

While the House of Representatives has passed legislation that would replace those provisions with new ones, Senate Majority leader (and Senior Senator from Kentucky) Mitch McConnell has stated he prefers to extend the existing Patriot Act provisions for two months. Rand Paul believes those provisions should be allowed to expire, but has stated a preference for allowing the House legislation to be debated.

Back to the Filibuster

This is the second time Rand Paul has engaged in a dramatic filibuster to bring attention to an issue; in 2011 he spoke for thirteen hours demanding that the Obama administration state definitively whether it believed it had legal standing to use drones against U.S. citizens on American soil.

Significantly, however, Rand Paul ended his filibuster a minute before midnight, which means his stunt will not have any effect on the Senate’s scheduled votes over the last two days of its session. Clearly, he wished to bring attention to the issue without seriously offending his party and colleagues (Paul is an announced candidate for President in 2016).

Bipartisan Support

As the Washington Post reported, Rand Paul was supported in his filibuster by several other Senators from both parties, including Republicans Mike Lee and Steve Daines and Democrats Martin Heinrich, Joe Manchin, Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell, Christopher A. Coons, and Jon Tester.

Rand Paul spoke afterwards about the bipartisan support he received, in particular referring to the bulk collection of phone records the Patriot Act allows.

“It was kind of nice to have bipartisan support. I think really there’s unanimity among a lot of us that the bulk collection ought to end.”

Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both rival candidates for the Presidency, were present during Rand Paul’s filibuster, as The Guardian noted. Neither participated, but Rubio praised Paul’s “passionate defence of liberty.”

“His is a voice that this body needs to listen to. If defenders of the Patriot Act are so confident … they should be prepared to debate the senator from Kentucky on the merits.”

Although procedurally irrelevant, Paul remained upbeat about his tactics and the issues he raised during his ten-hour speech.

“I think we accomplished something.”

Paul Rand updated his Twitter profile several times during the filibuster and after it had ended.

[Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images]