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US Senator speaks for 13 hours in old-style filibuster

THIRTEEN HOURS.

Leaving the floor after speaking on policy for 13 hours
Leaving the floor after speaking on policy for 13 hours
Image: Charles Dharapak/AP/Press Association Images

SENATOR RAND PAUL took the floor of the US Senate at 11.47am yesterday. He yielded it at 12.38am this morning. Almost 13 hours later.

“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” he began. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes.”

A filibuster is an old-school political manoeuvre which sees a senator take control of the chamber to prevent a vote on a proposal by delaying the debate. The Tea Party member wanted to block Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to be the new CIA director.

He also used the opportunity to speak about American civil rights and the current administration’s use of drones.

He said he formulated the filibuster plan after receiving a letter from the Attorney General who refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the US in “extraordinary circumstances” such as the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Paul read from notebooks filled with articles about the expanded use of the unmanned weapons that have become the centrepiece of the Obama administration’s campaign against al-Qaida suspects overseas. As he moved about the Senate floor, aides brought him glasses of water, which he barely touched. Senate rules say a senator has to remain on the floor to continue to hold it, even though he can yield to another senator for a question.

Although it was an impressive filibuster, which ended with an enthusiastic round of applause, it was not record breaking. That honour remains with former Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

At 12.38am, Paul ended his lengthy speech with a joke. He said that he was tempted to go another 12 hours and try to break Thurmond’s record, but he needed to use the bathroom.

“I discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go and take care of one of those in a few minutes.”

Watch Paul yield the floor:

(YouTube Credit: NROVideos)

The filibuster also earned its own hashtags on Twitter. As a snow storm swirled around Capitol Hill, users of the site began tweeting with the hashtag #filiblizzard, while Republicans called for support with the hashtag #StandWithRand.

During the evening, Paul’s Republican colleagues helped him out by joining him on the floor. Some made repeat appearances and quoted liberally from literature, movies and Twitter.

Senator Ted Cruz – another Tea Party favourite – held a mini-filibuster within a filibuster by reading from Shakespeare’s Henry V and quoting Patton. Senator Marco Rubio went to pop culture, using the words of Jay-Z and The Godfather. He also read messages of support from Twitter.

Job done. (Image: Charles Dharapak/AP/Press Association Images)

-Additional reporting by Associated Press

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