Sen. Rand Paul (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)As Washington, D.C., sat frozen on Wednesday by a promised snowstorm that failed to show, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul ground Congress to a halt in a rare show of congressional protest made famous by Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
The Republican lawmaker on Wednesday made good on his promise to conduct an hours-long talking filibuster on the Senate floor over the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, as a way to protest the Obama administration's use of drone strikes.
The filibuster drew eight other senators, including one Democrat, onto the floor. Members of both parties have publicly expressed concern over the drone policy.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon all spoke in support of Paul.
"This is an important issue that goes beyond John Brennan," Paul said from the floor. Paul added he holds nothing "personally" against Brennan or the president, but that his filibuster is rooted in principle over constitutional rights.
By 5 p.m. ET, Paul had spoken for more than five hours about the civil liberties he believes are under attack and the Obama administration. For breaks he had entertained "questions" from colleagues.
Paul's public protest followed his request to the administration last month for an explanation of whether the president "has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial." Such executive power violates Americans' constitutional rights, Paul said.
President Barack Obama does have the authority to target Americans with unmanned aerial vehicles, but "has no intention" of doing so. The only exception, he said, was if the U.S. were facing an "extraordinary circumstance."Attorney General Eric Holder responded to Paul in a letter released on Tuesday that
Paul, who had previously threatened to filibuster Brennan's nomination, called Holder's response "frightening" and “an affront to the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
Brennan has defended the administration's use of drone strikes abroad.
Paul's protest began at 11:45 p.m. ET, when he rose to state: "I will speak until I can no longer speak."
At one point on Wednesday, Paul likened Obama to a "king" and accused Obama of changing his position on constitutional rights after becoming "intoxicated with power."
Paul stressed that Americans should not allow their fear of terrorism to override basic rights.
Five hours into the filibuster Wednesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped in to try and cut it off. Paul refused.
"The only thing I would like is a clarification if the president or the attorney general will clarify that they're not going to kill noncombatants in America," Paul responded.
Olivier Knox contributed to this story.