COMMENTARY | Through a rare parliamentary maneuver, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., grabbed the political spotlight on Wednesday with a nearly 13-hour filibuster to shed light on the controversial use of drones.
Deciding to pursue the oratory challenge that morning, the Republican senator used the context of debating the nomination of John Brennan as Director of Central Intelligence by President Barack Obama. Paul seized the opportunity to speak shortly before noon when the Senate floor came open. Following the chamber’s rules, he did not surrender his right to talk until after midnight, remaining at the podium for 12 hours and 52 minutes and captivating political junkies watching on C-SPAN.
After a lengthy exploration of the wrongs with drone strikes, the junior senator from Kentucky was joined by numerous colleagues asking questions. In addition to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who displayed greater openness to debate than many Democrats, Republicans stating concerns included Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. #IStandWithRand became the top trend on Twitter and was even discussed during Cruz’s remarks.
Appearing on the Rush Limbaugh radio show on Thursday, Sen. Paul described researching the issue for several weeks prior to the filibuster. While harboring concerns about Brennan’s candidacy, the legislator conceded his strategy was designed to get answers from the administration.
Specifically, Paul sought clarification of the constitutional issue of whether the president has authority to order drone strikes against non-combatants on American soil. Favoring an admission that law enforcement cannot use this tool, Paul passionately pleaded that government never cherry-pick which parts of the Constitution apply to citizens.
“It should be a simple question,” the libertarian-leaning senator told Rush Limbaugh. Nevertheless, Attorney General Eric Holder seemingly hesitated while wording a response to that question, when asked repeatedly during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. Holder eventually admitted to Cruz that the administration would not pursue such policy.
Yet, that was not the robust defense of the Fifth Amendment desired. As a result, the lengthy filibuster continued until the senator’s words finally extinguished or, more likely, his robust bladder eventually expanded.
Ending with gratitude for those joining his efforts, and a plea for an answer to his query, the speech ranked as the ninth-longest in Senate history .
Though the filibuster concluded, the tactic soon received results. Hearing from both conservative and liberal critics, Holder quickly clarified the administration’s position on Thursday in a letter to the Kentucky senator.
In a two sentence response, Holder wrote , “The answer to that question is no.”
Agreeing with the attorney general’s pronouncement, I applaud Paul not only for getting clarification, but for an effective display of governance. While voters are often cynical about the intentions of legislators, we clearly witnessed how Paul is passionate about a meaningful issue and willing to sacrifice for it.
Such determination is rare in Washington, where questions seldom receive targeted answers and settling for quick fixes is generally praised. The filibuster may resemble an archaic rule, but through the aid of modern social media, Paul proved it fits 21st century leadership nicely.
Jeff Briscoe is an attorney and writer from Port Charlotte, Fla., who regularly contributes to the Yahoo! Contributor Network.