What a real filibuster looks like

What a real filibuster looks like

On the Senate floor this afternoon, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is showing his colleagues and the nation what a real filibuster, and real debate, looks like.

As I write this, Paul is in the third hour of a speech he’s promised to continue until his voice gives out; he’s challenging President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The nomination is important and the objections Paul is voicing to it and to the administration’s policies on the CIA’s use of drone aircraft to track and attack suspected terrorists are worthy of the most careful consideration.

My purpose here is to observe that they’re also consistent with the Senate’s traditions of free and open debate.

All too often, including earlier today in the Senate’s consideration of the nomination of Caitlin Halligan for a federal appellate judgeship, a minority of senators has used the filibuster to stifle debate. That abuse of the rule is at the heart of why Common Cause has filed and is pursuing a lawsuit to have the filibuster rule and its 60-vote requirement for Senate action declared unconstitutional.

Once Sen. Paul and any other senators who want to discuss the Brennan nomination have made their points, there should be a vote — up or down — on confirmation. That’s how the Senate is supposed to work, but did not in the case of Ms. Halligan. Senate rules should protect the right of the minority to fully express its views, and the right of the majority to work its will. Right now, they don’t.