Congress

Rand Paul’s Best ‘Filibuster’ Friends: Democrats

Republican presidential nominee Rand Paul attracts odd bedfellows in his talkathon.

Senator Rand Paul speaks to guests at a campaign event at Bloomsbury Farm on April 25, 2015 in Atkins, Iowa.
National Journal
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Lauren Fox
May 20, 2015, 5:35 p.m.

There are 18 months un­til the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion and Sen. Rand Paul is vy­ing for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion. But some of his biggest al­lies in his hours-long talk­a­thon Wed­nes­day haven’t been mem­bers of his own party; they’ve been Demo­crats.

Paul took to the Sen­ate floor shortly after 1 p.m. Wed­nes­day in op­pos­i­tion to the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s col­lec­tion of bulk data and ended his speech just be­fore mid­night. Sec­tion 215 of the Pat­ri­ot Act, which is used to au­thor­ize that col­lec­tion, will sun­set June 1, send­ing the Sen­ate in­to a tailspin as it tries to find a res­ol­u­tion be­fore it leaves for a one-week re­cess. Fel­low Ken­tucki­an and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has urged the Sen­ate to pass a clean reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the pro­gram, but Paul and oth­ers have vowed to stand in the way.

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ron Wyden, who has threatened to fili­buster any ex­ten­sion of the Pat­ri­ot Act, was the first and not all-that-un­ex­pec­ted Demo­crat to come and speak in sup­port of Paul’s po­s­i­tion Wed­nes­day.

But he was far from the last. Sev­en Demo­crats spoke with Paul, com­pared with just three Re­pub­lic­ans. Wyden’s vis­it set in mo­tion more Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate speeches from New Mex­ico’s Mar­tin Hein­rich, West Vir­gin­ia’s Joe Manchin, Delaware’s Chris Coons, Wash­ing­ton state’s Maria Can­t­well, and Con­necti­c­ut’s Richard Blu­menth­al. Even Chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee Jon Test­er—the man re­spons­ible for try­ing to take Paul’s Sen­ate seat in­to Demo­crat­ic con­trol in 2016—came down to speak out along­side the Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or.

It is a stark re­mind­er of how on is­sues of civil liber­ties, party lines are blurred and polit­ics can be murky. Even in the lead-up to a pres­id­en­tial cycle, Wyden took the floor to ap­plaud Paul for block­ing any mo­tion to move for­ward on a straight reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the bulk col­lec­tion of metadata.

“As long as the sen­at­or from Ken­tucky has the floor, that can­not hap­pen,” Wyden said.

Paul will be able to use his Demo­crat­ic sup­port on the NSA as evid­ence of his bi­par­tis­an ap­peal as he hits the cam­paign trail. Paul already star­ted us­ing his self-pro­claimed fili­buster to raise money for his cam­paign with­in hours of hit­ting the floor.

But Demo­crats who came out to “stand with Rand” said they wer­en’t even think­ing about polit­ics when they de­cided to come down and speak with him.

Hein­rich said he was happy to sup­port his col­league across the aisle Wed­nes­day be­cause when it comes to is­sues of na­tion­al se­cur­ity, polit­ics have to be put aside.

“It’s a sort of in the fab­ric of cer­tain states to want to know that the gov­ern­ment is not in your busi­ness if you are be­hav­ing your­self. It is not a left-right thing,” Hein­rich said.

No­tice­ably ab­sent, however, from Paul’s speech for the first long stretch was fel­low 2016 can­did­ate Ted Cruz, who also sup­ports re­form­ing the NSA’s data-col­lec­tion pro­gram.

Amer­ica’s Liber­tyPAC, the su­per PAC sanc­tioned by Paul, tweeted out a photo of Cruz Wed­nes­day night with his hands in the air that read:

“Hold up. Who said I cared enough about your rights to #Stand­With­Rand? Cause I don’t”

Cruz came to the floor a little after 10 p.m. to preside. He spoke with Paul just be­fore 11:30 p.m.

This post has been up­dated with ad­di­tion­al sen­at­ors who join Paul on the floor.

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