In the spring, Paul threatened to derail reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act by temporarily lodging a one-man filibuster against the bill. And Paul has repeatedly joined with a small band of conservatives to oppose major fiscal legislation such as the August deal to raise the debt ceiling, supporting less popular alternatives. Paul has offered his own austere budget and has attempted to force votes on several of his amendments, to the irritation of Democratic leaders.
The Senate operates by unanimous consent, allowing any Member to bring the chamber to halt — at almost any time and for any reason — if he or she chooses. And this year, each time the chamber was set to consider a controversial issue, the question of whether Paul or another freshman Senator with tea party roots would filibuster always loomed.
Paul continues to employ the practice of temporarily halting the passage of certain bills — most recently legislation to continue financial aid to elderly and disabled refugees — either because of his opposition or to negotiate changes. But even Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who has had nice things to say about Paul on the floor, complimented the Kentucky Republican for being judicious in his use of this procedural tool.
“I’ve watched him carefully since he came,” the Illinois Democrat said. “We’ve come to him sometimes with his amendments, and I think he’s been reasonable. I don’t have a negative view of what he’s done. I think he’s exercising his authority as a Senator.”
A senior Republican Senate aide cautioned that Paul still occasionally plays the role of a partisan renegade, but this individual said the freshman tends not to alienate other Members in doing so. “He’s a bit all over the map,” the aide said. And Tuesday’s interview with Paul made clear that he is still willing to express his views in sharp terms.
Asked why he decided to push for a Senate Republican jobs plan, Paul mimicked Obama’s plea to Congress to approve his jobs bill “right away,” saying: “I have this bad echo in my ear: ‘pass it, pass it, pass it now.’” Paul also charged that Obama has failed to work with Republicans on a consensus jobs agenda, saying the president would prefer to play politics with the issue than find common ground on legislation.
“On a one-to-one basis, I think the president’s very personable,” Paul said, recalling his conversation with Obama on Air Force One. “We had a very good conversation, I thought. ... I think there’s a contrast, though. People say they’re for something, and then he got off the plane and went on and on and on about millionaires and billionaires not paying enough taxes.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.