(WASHINGTON) — At 12:39 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that allows the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.
Paul yielded the floor just shy of 13 hours. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for a filibuster. The South Carolina Republican filibustered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.
As he yielded the floor, Paul told his Senate colleagues, “I would go for another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I have learned there are limits and I have to go take care of one of those right now.”
The Kentucky Republican expressed hope that the administration would address the issue of drones on Thursday and clarify that it won’t target American citizens in the U.S.
The Capitol Hill drama began late Wednesday morning when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to push the chamber toward a final vote on Brennan’s nomination, but was blocked when Paul took the Senate floor at 11:47 a.m. in a filibuster. Brennan had received approval from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in a 12-3 vote.
It was an unusual tactic in a Senate that no longer relies on traditional filibusters, in which a single senator ties up the Senate floor by speaking for hours on end.
The Kentucky Republican declared, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
Paul continued, “That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”
The senator summed up his reason for the filibuster by saying, “I’m not asking any questions about the president’s motives. I don’t question his motives. I, frankly, don’t think he will be killing people in restaurants tonight or in their house tonight.”
He continued, “But this is about the rule of law. It isn’t so much about him. It isn’t so much about John Brennan. It’s about having rules so that someday if we do have the misfortune of electing someone you do not trust, electing someone who might kill innocent people or who might kill people that they disagree with politically or they might kill people who they disagree with religiously or might kill people of another ethnic group, we’re protected.”
Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that while the president has the legal authority to order a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil, under “extraordinary circumstances,” the government “has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States.” Holder added, “It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would occur.”
During his filibuster, Paul was seen munching on a candy bar, sipping water and drinking some hot tea.
As the filibuster entered its 12th hour, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on the Senate floor and congratulated his fellow Kentuckian and said he’ll oppose moving toward a vote on Brennan and that there should be more debate.
It’s not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end the debate on Thursday.
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