It may not have actually been the definition of a filibuster, but Rand Paul worked his tail off Wednesday night on the Senate floor, calling attention to the dangers of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. He spoke for 10-and-a-half hours, beginning at 1:18 p.m. and lasting nearly until midnight, calling it a day at 11:49 p.m.
It was the second filibuster or near filibuster that Paul has performed in his first term in the Senate. Like the first one, he was joined briefly by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Seven Democrats also joined in on the fun, with New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Delaware’s Chris Coons, Washington state’s Maria Cantwell, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and Montana’s Jon Tester all taking part.
At issue is the NSA’s collection of bulk data from private citizens. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is used to authorize that collection, will sunset June 1. What will the Senate do? They’re scheduled to (what else) take a week off after Thursday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged the Senate to pass a clean reauthorization of the program, but Paul and others have vowed to reject that proposal.
There was the possibility that if Paul had continued on, the Senate would have been forced to deal with the issue this holiday weekend, but that apparently isn’t the case now.
The near-filibuster certainly helps put Paul back into the national spotlight, as he competes for the Republican nomination for president. Paul’s brand has taken a beating over the past six months, since he got more serious about thinking about his candidacy and therefore changing what had been his idiosyncratic, libertarian isolationist style that prompted Time magazine to label him “the most interesting man in politics” last fall.
Then he started changing a lot of his positions on foreign policy, as he realized that the average GOP primary voter wants more engagement overseas, not less. What makes Paul a potential viable general election candidate is how he talks and thinks about things that few other Republicans do (again it was notable how many Democrats joined him last night). Cynics might suggest that his trips to Berkeley and Howard University were also calculated, and that his true political persona is really unformed.
Maybe so, but when it comes to fears about overbearing U.S. government surveillance, there are a lot of people who agree with him, though not as nearly as much as one might think, if polls are the true indication.
In other news …
To a person, Hillsborough County Commissioners said Wednesday they want to enact a wage theft ordinance. How robust that will be, well, let’s just say Kevin Beckner has his doubts.
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The Hillsborough County Legislative delegation gathered as one Wednesday for lunch and a little conversation at Maestro’s Restaurant inside the Straz Center in Tampa. The group of six Republicans and two Democrats (where was Ed Narain?) got to talking about … what else? … Medicaid expansion and the budget impasse.
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PSTA, the Pinellas County transit agency, is employing Tony Collins on consulting projects in 2015. Collins was with the Tampa communications firm of Tucker/Hall for years until last year, about the same time that agency stopped working on the Greenlight Pinellas branding effort.
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And Barbara Boxer couldn’t let Marco Rubio get away with attempting to dictate where Americans can stay in Cuba. The exchange between the two coastal senators took place yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the latest developments with the U.S. and Cuba.