Rand Paul: I'm filibustering this budget deal in the Senate

Anger over the “barn cleaning” budget deal announced yesterday didn’t remain limited to conservatives in the House. Rand Paul, running for both President and a second term as Senator in 2016, told The Hill that he plans to filibuster the deal if and when it makes it to the upper chamber. But how many in the Senate will join him?

“This is exactly the opposite of what every conservative Republican in America wants, and I’m going to do everything I can to stop it,” the Republican presidential candidate told The Hill.

“I will filibuster it, I’ll delay it, I’ll shout about it. I’m going to talk about it until I’m tired of talking about it and until people wake up and say this is wrong for the country,” he added. …

“I think raising the debt ceiling with no limit is absurd, wrong, a recipe for unlimited spending,” Paul told The Hill following a campaign rally in Denver, a day before the third GOP presidential debate Wednesday night.

“I think busting the budget caps is exactly the wrong thing we should do,” he added. “We should use the leverage of the debt ceiling to try to get spending reform, not give up on spending reform.”

No one doubts Paul’s sincerity on this; he has long railed against national debt as the single greatest danger to national security. This deal keeps spending on the increase and does nothing to reform entitlement programs from their path to collapse. However, Paul’s strategy might be questioned. Normally, budget bills cannot be filibustered or blocked. Perhaps this budget deal would come to the floor under a special status which would allow for use of the filibuster, or perhaps Paul will try one anyway just to dare the presider to declare him out of order. Either way, it’s a tactic with no chance for success, but instead a formal manner of momentary protest.

This provides a little fire in conjunction with tonight’s debate, as CBS News notes this morning:

Republicans right about now should be breathing a sigh of relief: The two-year budget agreement that Congress reached with the White House will keep the threat of a government shutdown off the table for the duration of the presidential election, preventing them from the sort of self-inflicted political damage the GOP suffered in 2013.

Yet it’s unlikely that at Wednesday’s GOP debate, the candidates — particularly those who will have to vote on the budget deal in the Senate — will have much positive to say about the deal.

Indeed. Most of Paul’s colleagues in the presidential race have already announced their opposition to the deal. Ted Cruz’s opposition comes as no surprise at all, of course. Marco Rubio, whose concern for defense might have wooed him to holding his nose and supporting the deal, wasted no time in rejecting in yesterday. In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Rubio called the budget agreement “severely flawed,” rejects the level of defense spending as still inadequate, and slams negotiators for kicking the can again past another election cycle.

Paul has those three as probable supporters in a filibuster attempt, if one can be used. In fact, it might be presidential-politics suicide for either Cruz or Rubio to refuse to support a filibuster. That leaves Paul with only 38 more slots to fill on his team. Undoubtedly, Paul will find others, but it’s difficult to see exactly where he can get to 41 in the current Senate, especially with Mitch McConnell and John McCain already on board. Lindsey Graham won’t be in the same debate tonight as the other three Senators, so don’t expect him to sign up for the filibuster. Democrats will vote in lockstep to push this deal, so Paul can’t expect any help on the other side of the aisle.

In other words, don’t expect much from a filibuster, except one last opportunity to explain how this deal is a full retreat from one of the few victories won by Republicans during Barack Obama’s presidency.

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