WASHINGTON - Call it Rand's Stand: A nearly 13-hour stall tactic on the Senate floor that thrust a tea-party hero back into the national spotlight - a real-life version of the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster on Wednesday of President Obama's pick for CIA director was the latest notable move by the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul. Rand Paul, a freshman senator, is a growing political force in his own right. The eye doctor challenged the Republican Party's establishment in his state to win his seat in 2010 and now commands attention as a defender of limited government.
Paul, a critic of Obama's aerial drone policy, started his long speaking feat just before noon Wednesday by demanding that the president or Attorney General Eric Holder issue a statement assuring him the unmanned aircraft would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism suspects who are U.S. citizens.
"I will speak until I can no longer speak," Paul said.
Two conservative Republican stalwarts, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took him to task Thursday on the Senate floor. But Holder complied with his request, sending him a brief note saying the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill a U.S. citizen on American soil if the citizen is not engaged in combat.
The Senate voted Thursday to confirm John Brennan as CIA director, 63-34. Paul voted no.
Paul's performance prompted a torrent of phone calls from tea-party supporters urging senators to support him. The National Republican Senatorial Committee used the filibuster to raise about $75,000 for GOP candidates.
Paul stepped onto the national stage in 2010 when he vanquished Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's chosen Kentucky candidate in a GOP primary. Since then, he's embraced his popularity in the tea party and has inherited his father's libertarian-leaning political network, built over two failed Ron Paul presidential runs. All that has stoked belief in GOP circles that Paul may be positioning himself for a national campaign, possibly as early as 2016.
Paul, 50, has been difficult to pigeonhole in the Senate. He was one of four Republicans to support Obama's nomination of former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as defense secretary, yet he used his tea-party response to Obama's State of the Union address to blast what he called the president's belief in more debt and higher taxes. Tea-party activists say his latest move has energized their ranks and raised his profile.
Paul, who made do with water and candy bars during his filibuster, said he recognized he couldn't stop Brennan from being confirmed. He said the fight was about raising questions over the limits of the federal government.
Even Democrats offered admiration for his stamina.
"What I have learned from my experiences in talking filibusters is this: To succeed, you need strong convictions but also a strong bladder," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It's obvious Senator Paul has both."
How senators voted on Brennan:
• Sen. John McCain, R - yes
• Sen. Jeff Flake, R - yes