McConnell was bound to have been criticized for his response to the Paul filibuster, regardless of whether he sat on the floor for the entire thing, given his unpopularity among a cadre of vocal tea-party-inspired conservatives.
Sen. Rand Paul’s almost 13-hour filibuster generated a massive amount of attention from conservative activists Wednesday, and many were asking why Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t on the floor cheering him on.
Paul admitted on CNN that he declined to notify his fellow Kentucky Republican or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about his spontaneous plan to hold up Senate action on the nomination of John O. Brennan to be director of the CIA. But grass-roots conservatives helped push behind the scenes to get more Republican senators to join the protest of the Obama administration’s drone program.
A Twitter hashtag went viral, with #StandWithRand trending worldwide, including in far-off spots such as Tehran, the capital of Iran.
“Where is Rand Paul’s fellow Kentucky Senator? Watching Ashley Judd movies?” influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson tweeted at 9:22 p.m., taking a jab at McConnell and the film star who may challenge him in 2014.
Of course, McConnell was bound to have been criticized for his response to the Paul filibuster, regardless of whether he sat on the floor for the entire thing, given his unpopularity among a cadre of vocal tea-party-inspired conservatives.
A McConnell aide says the leader was tracking the events unfolding on the floor throughout the evening, and he eventually did join in — albeit in the eleventh hour of the filibuster — announcing he would oppose limiting debate on Brennan. Brennan’s nomination was the target of Paul’s filibuster, as he sought an answer from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. about the use of drones to target Americans within the United States.
A McConnell aide said the minority leader had already made the decision to oppose Brennan and had communicated his concerns and his position privately, but the announcement on the floor generated the attention and added some heft to Paul’s efforts.
On Thursday, Holder acceded to Paul’s demands and sent him a letter that said the president cannot use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil. That led Paul to drop his objections to a vote on Brennan, who was confirmed shortly thereafter.
The political import and effect of McConnell’s late-night support of Paul is expected to be negligible back home in the Bluegrass State. In Kentucky, where the disdain for President Barack Obama remains potent, McConnell’s opposition to Brennan can’t hurt. But among the conservative grass roots and within the local tea party infrastructure in the state, the minority leader’s support of Paul won’t move the needle, Republican political operatives of all stripes said.