Political news this week centered around the use of drones, which was challenged most effectively in Washington by Senator Rand Paul. The freshman legislator from Kentucky used a talking filibuster to delay the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. On March 6th, with the Senate set to confirm Brennan to his new post, Paul began an old-school filibuster to delay the vote until he received an answer to his question of whether Americans not engaged in battle could be targeted by drones within U.S. borders.
Rand Paul – Winner – Paul did exactly what he had to do to get the answer he wanted from the administration. By holding one of the longest talking filibusters in history (clocking in just shy of 13 hours), he solidified his libertarian-Republican base, gained the attention of many independents concerned with civil liberties and, more importantly, he finally received the answer he was looking for, directly from Eric Holder. The answer was an unequivocal “no.” Even normally-liberal talk show host Jon Stewart, during his show, came out in favor of Paul’s action.
Eric Holder – Loser – The Attorney General not only lost his battle with Senator Paul, but he also found himself engaged with Ted Cruz and other Senators over the issue of drone strikes within the United States. The 62-year old, the first African-American appointed to that post, has since found himself on the defensive from right-wing and some left-wing politicos over his earlier ambiguity on the question.
Caitlin Halligan – Loser – This is the second time that President Obama has brought Halligan’s name up for an appointment to the Federal Appeals Court. Republicans rallied against the appointment, deeming Halligan’s record too liberal. In the end, although 51 of 100 senators voted in favor of Halligan, she did not receive the 60 votes needed to be named to the court.
President Obama – Loser – The President banked that his predictions of the dire results of sequester cuts would jostle Americans into supporting Democrats, but a CBS poll shows that almost as many Americans – 33 to 38 percent – blame Democrats for the cuts as blame Republicans.
John Boehner – Winner – the House Speaker and the rest of the Republicans came out from the other side of the sequester looking better than expected. Boehner gambled that accepting the defense cuts mandated by the sequester would pay off in public polling, and so far, the bet seems to be paying off for him.
The current record for the longest filibuster ever is a 24-hour, 18-minute speech given to the Senate on August 29, 1957 by Strom Thurmond. Filibusters are perhaps best-known to most Americans from Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of an upstart freshman Senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The practice was first widely used by Roman senator Cato the Younger to block moves made by Caesar. This latest filibuster was finally ended when Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, needed to take a bathroom break. Brennan was later confirmed.