Rand Paul promised that he would carry out a filibuster to protest the renewal of the Patriot Act, and for 10 ½ hours, he essentially did just that. The Republican Senator for Kentucky commanded the floor of the Senate in part of his opposition to mass government surveillance, like the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata. Since there was no bill being considered, Paul’s actions cannot be called a true filibuster, but his intention was clear.
I've just taken the senate floor to begin a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal. It's time to end the NSA spying!
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015
Paul has long been a vocal opponent of government surveillance, calling for greater privacy rights for citizens that have grown suspicious of organizations like the NSA. He is also no stranger to the filibuster technique, which he first employed in 2013 as the Senate considered the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director – he spent almost 13 hours chastising the Obama administration for its use of drones.
The hashtag #StandWithRand trending all day. The filibuster ended at 11:48 pm, a strategic move by Paul in order to not delay a crucial vote surrounding Obama’s fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Paul at first spoke for nearly three hours without interruptions, but was lent an unlikely hand by Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who has experience with the Senate Intelligence Committee and shares Paul’s views on government surveillance.
Wyden engaged Paul in a series of questions, which gave Paul the opportunity to take a break from speaking without ending the filibuster prematurely. “There is no question it is a very dangerous world. But what doesn’t make sense is to be pursuing approaches that don’t make us safer and compromise our liberties,” Wyden said, echoing statements made by Paul.
Others also took the floor during Paul’s filibuster including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), plus four more Democrats gave Paul a hand — Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1, which means that time is running out for Paul and Wyden to drum up support for the push to end it entirely. The USA Freedom Act, which would limit the government to collecting phone data on a case-by-case basis, overwhelmingly passed the house and has the Obama administration’s support, but many senators have expressed concerns that such limitations would strip the government of a valuable counterterrorism tool. Paul, on the other hand, says the measure doesn’t do enough to rein in the intelligence community.