What Rand Paul Will Likely Filibuster Next

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 26 2013 3:58 PM

What Rand Paul Will Likely Filibuster Next

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) talks with reporters on March 19.

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Rand Paul is planning his next filibuster. The target: gun-control legislation.

In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican—along with fellow conservatives Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, both of whom made cameos during Paul's drone filibuster—don't actually use the word filibuster, but it's pretty clear that's what they have in mind when they outline their intention to "oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions." If successful, that effort would prevent the opening of debate on a gun-control package that is set to be discussed when the Senate returns from a two-week recess.

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It's unclear if the threatened filibuster will be a repeat of the Mr. Smith-style marathon speech Paul delivered on drones earlier this month that temporarily stalled the confirmation of CIA director John Brennan and won him heaps of press coverage, or if Paul and his allies have the votes needed for the more traditional—and much less interesting—silent filibuster that allows 41 senators to simply vote to prevent cloture. Politico, which got an early look at Paul's letter to Reid, explains that the latter scenario seems within reach for the Republican trio:

Lee staged a test vote on the issue during consideration of the Senate budget last week. He tried to amend a point of order against gun control legislation to the budget but fell short. It needed a three-fifths supermajority and failed 50-49, needing 60 votes to pass. But the final tally emboldened Lee, Paul and Cruz because they were so close to a majority and a filibuster takes just 41 votes to sustain.

Reid, meanwhile, is less than pleased with the GOP trio's plans. Here's the statement he gave to the Washington Post:

It’s outrageous that these senators are unwilling to even engage in a debate over gun violence in America. No matter your opinion on this issue, we should all be able to agree with President Obama when he said that the children and teachers of Newtown, along with all other Americans who have been victims of gun violence, at least deserve a vote.

The full letter (it's brief) is here.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.