Sen. Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour “talking filibuster” of John O. Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA featured weighty constitutional questions about the power of the government to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil. But it also had its moments of levity. Here are the best moments CQ Roll Call saw.
1. In speaking hour after hour, Paul would often repurpose the same information. One of his favorite refrains was about Alice in Wonderland, highlighting that the queen sought to hand down punishment before issuing verdicts.
“They say Lewis Carroll is fiction. Alice never fell down a rabbit hole, and the White Queen’s caustic judgments are not really a threat to your security. Or has America the Beautiful become Alice’s Wonderland?” Paul said.
2. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recognized by Paul to ask a question, said “Just let me give you some free advice: keep some water nearby.”
3. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, came to Paul’s aid on several occasions, by speaking to the underlying legal issues and, in what may be a first for the Senate floor, reading reaction from Twitter commending Paul for his exercise.
4. “This is getting perilously close to a debate and I’m sorry for those who are observing it if it looks like the Senate is actually in debate,” Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., quipped late in the proceedings.
5. A weary Paul ceded a point to Durbin, saying, “Touche” when the Democrat questioned Paul about the definition of an imminent threat to U.S. national security. Durbin asked whether Osama bin Laden had posed such a threat even when there was no evidence of immediate attack. The exchange drew criticism from some conservatives who argued Paul was not talking about bin Laden to begin with since he was not an American citizen.
6. After conservatives on Twitter mocked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for not being on the floor, the minority leader joined the fray in the 11th hour. McConnell added heft to the rabble-rousing filibuster by saying he would urge other Republicans to block Brennan’s nomination.
“At whatever point we get to a cloture vote to extend debate on the nomination of Brennan, it is my view that cloture should not be invoked,” McConnell said. “This is a controversial nominee. Should cloture be invoked, I intend to oppose the nomination and congratulate my colleague from Kentucky for this extraordinary effort.”
7. Three freshmen Republican senators actually made what might be considered their “maiden speech” on the Senate floor during the filibuster proceedings. Perhaps they could be called “maiden questions.” Cruz spoke multiple times during the nearly 13 hour long process. Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tim Scott of South Carolina both asked questions of Paul as the night drew to a close.
Flake followed more closely to the script of asking questions than most other senators, even some with longer service tenures.
“I think that the question that the gentleman is asking, if I understand the question correctly, is right and proper,” Flake said. “My understanding is, all you want to find out is, does the president believe that the administration has the authority to use lethal means in this manner domestically. Is that correct?”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.