WASHINGTON (AP) — When we last left off, an irked Sen. Rand Paul was blasting what he considered a bloated budget bill on the Senate floor. For hours, he forced Congress to delay passage until the federal government — briefly and imperceptibly — shut its doors.
Six weeks later, the Kentucky Republican had a similar beef Thursday with a followup 2,232-page measure that detailed how agencies will spend $1.3 trillion this year. This time he took to Twitter — again and again and again.
By around 8 p.m. EDT — when he said he was finished for the evening — he’d tweeted three dozen times about the bill, a stream of consciousness mix of discoveries, reflections and photos of the 55-year-old libertarian in action.
He celebrated a provision that forbade government from spending money to use torture and applauded language preventing federal intervention against state medical marijuana initiatives. He criticized his own party for driving up deficits. “Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses —and parties,” he wrote.
“Page 278. (1954 to go!),” he gamely reported at one point.
The House easily approved the bipartisan bill Thursday and Senate passage was certain. Doing that before midnight Friday night would prevent the year’s third federal shutdown, which Republicans controlling Congress were eager to realize.
But as afternoon faded into evening, no vote had occurred, leaving everyone in the Capitol wondering if Paul was delaying the vote again.
At first, Paul and his staff weren’t saying. But as the Senate began late-night votes, Paul told reporters he would not delay action on the spending bill, saying he thought he’d attained “the peak of getting the message across.”
Earlier, the libertarian and former presidential candidate was back in his office, reading the bill and tweeting away.
“$1 million for the Cultural Antiquities Task Force,” he announced.
“Ordered some pizza to help me get me through. Still going … ,” he tweeted, along with a picture of him at his desk, reading away and a slice of pizza at his elbow.
He said it took more than two hours to print out the measure, which stood a foot tall.
Shortly after 8 p.m., he’d had enough after plowing through around 600 pages. He stopped short of saying he’d delay the Senate vote until a shutdown began early Saturday morning.
“If they insist on voting, I will vote ‘no’ because it spends too much and there’s just too little time to read the bill and let everyone know what’s actually in it,” he wrote. “Thanks for sticking with me.”