Fred and Ginger. Bogie and Bacall. Kate and Leo. To these storied onscreen pairings, let us now add Rand and Nancy.
Sure, when it comes to policy, Nancy Pelosi and Rand Paul agree on…virtually nothing. But when it comes to political theater, these two seem destined to walk the red carpet together.
“The award for best performance by a member of the United States House of Representatives goes to…Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, from the great state of California—for her eight-hour sensation ‘Taking a Stand for Dreamers’!”
“And the award for best performance by a member of the U.S. Senate goes to…Rand Paul, from the great state of Kentucky—for his shutdown night, one-man show ‘I Will Always Stand Up for Fiscal Responsibility’!”
House Democrats gave Pelosi a standing ovation as she wrapped up her marathon speech—the longest since 1909–in defense of so-called Dreamers, those whose protected status under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is set to end as soon as March 5. Pelosi’s speech was mounted in protest of the budget deal, offered with a shutdown looming, that did not provide Dreamers with renewed protection—and the absence of an assurance from House Speaker Paul Ryan that the House would allow an open debate on DACA, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to.
Pelosi voted “No” last night on the budget measure, but not before she signaled to her fellow House Democrats—who she has shown she can hold perfectly in line when she wants—that they were free to vote as they wished on a budget deal that she called “a good product.”
Not to be outdone, Rand Paul ramped up the drama Thursday night, as the midnight government-shutdown deadline rapidly approached—and then passed!—with a solo filibuster to protest fiscal irresponsibility in the Capitol’s upper chamber.
Was this about the $1.5 trillion tax cut that barely passed on a strict party-line vote at the end of last year? The one that the CBO said would put a commensurate hole in the nation’s finances? No, not that fiscal irresponsibility—Paul voted for that. This was about the spending that, apparently, a government needs to do even if it’s slashed incoming revenue in order to give folks like private jet owners a much-needed break.
“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Paul said from the floor, “I want people to feel uncomfortable.” Having granted that trenchant insight into his dramatic motivation, he asked his uncomfortable audience, “If you were against President Obama’s deficits, and now you’re for the Republican deficits, isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?”
Records for holding the floor are, alas, harder to break in the Senate, with its long history of marathon filibusters. Paul was forced to settle for glowing bipartisan reviews, such as, “A colossal waste of time!”—John Thune (R-SD) and “Clueless! I didn’t see any purpose!”—Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
In the end, after Paul dismounted his high horse, he voted “Nay,” according to his conscience, ending the suspense over whether the budget package would squeak by on a 71-28 vote. On the House, where Speaker Ryan’s inability to get enough of his Republicans on board to assure passage provided at least the opportunity for drama. But no: Minority Leader Pelosi had had enough drama for the week. A Democratic caucus that had voted in lockstep to reject December’s tax bill fostered sufficient defections to cover for Republican no-voters, all with Pelosi’s okay. And so the budget passed, without a commitment from Ryan to hold a DACA vote on Pelosi’s terms, and the curtain fell on the latest shutdown.
Rand, Nancy—take a bow!