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Editorial

Senator Rand Paul showing the old ways are better

There was an allusion to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and a staged reading of a patriotic letter written by Colonel Travis in the Alamo, but Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s old-fashioned filibuster of President Obama’s CIA nominee, John O. Brennan, this week was a serious success: It demonstrated the power of actual debate — at one point, even Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon acknowledged that Paul had raised significant concerns about Obama’s drone warfare — and the passion that lies behind some of the procedural delays that are widely derided in Washington.

By talking for so long, with the help of sympathetic colleagues, Paul also showed the hollowness of the modern filibuster, in which a senator can automatically delay a vote without saying anything, and require 60 colleagues to vote to end the so-called “filibuster.” Expansion of the pseudo-filibuster, an effective hold on Senate business with no edifying power, is rightly blamed for political gridlock. Paul’s filibuster showed a better path: Allow the dissenters to dominate debate for as long as they can hold out, making their best points, but then let time, and human nature, take their course.

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