For more than 10 and a half hours, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) occupied the Senate floor in an attempt to halt the renewal of a controversial American national security program.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paul began filibustering the renewal of the Patriot Act. Passed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act has been broadly used to justify controversial national security programs including the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American’s telephone metadata.
“The people don’t want the bulk collection of their records, and if we were listening, we would hear that,” Paul said, according to ABC News.
The Republican presidential candidate’s filibuster lasted well into the evening. At several points, he was joined by allies from both sides of the aisles who oppose straight reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) both relieved Paul at points during his filibuster so Paul could briefly rest.
Paul has been an outspoken critic of the act. The Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly said that the NSA data collection program justified under the act is unconstitutional. In 2014, Paul sued the Obama administration over this, claiming the NSA was violating Americans’ 4th Amendment rights by not obtaining a warrant before collecting telephone metadata.
Earlier, Paul had not given an estimate on how long the filibuster would last, but he said he would do “whatever it takes” to stop the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
“Well, nobody can predict how long you can talk, but I plan on doing everything humanly possible to try to stop the Patriot Act,” Paul said, according to CNN.
The Senator is no stranger to the filibuster. In 2013, Paul spent 13 hours on the Senate floor filibustering Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan’s confirmation to protest the US drone program.
Paul said that the notoriety of that filibuster brought him fans, who now ask him what else he’ll filibuster.
“People are always asking, ‘Are you going to filibuster this or filibuster that?'” Paul said during a forum in Philadelphia, according to the LA Times. “To my mind, there are few times when something rises to the occasion that is so important that you really have to take a stand on that issue.”
Paul is also cashing in on the interest in his Congressional protests. On Wednesday, the National Journal noted that the Republican presidential candidate now sells “filibuster starter packs” on his website.
Paul’s opposition to the Patriot Act puts him in stark contrast with other Republican presidential contenders on Capitol Hill. Fellow presidential contenders Sen. Lyndsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) support a renewal of the Patriot Act. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) supports an amended version that would limit the NSA’s surveillance program.
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