Sen. Paul shuts down education hearing, demands time on No Child Left Behind

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from continuing a mark-up hearing on Wednesday in a sharp floor exchange with the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Paul insisted on enforcement of a rule that limits hearings from going beyond two hours' time while the Senate is in session. He demanded at least one hearing and longer deliberation on a long-anticipated 868-page education reform bill expected to soon pass out of the committee.

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“There have been no hearings on No Child Left Behind since I have been in the Senate … [I] think this is an affront,” the freshman senator said from the floor. “[T]his process is rotten from the top to the bottom. [W]hat I would ask for is that we have a hearing.”

Harkin and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) blasted Paul after his objection, suggesting he has not worked well with the committee’s leadership and that his junior status means he missed important hearings held last year, before he was a member of the upper chamber. 

“I am sorry the senator wasn’t here last year but the Senate is a continuing body,” said Harkin. “[T]he senator from Kentucky had every opportunity to let us know what we wanted in that bill but I never saw him, I never heard from him.” 

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is also a member of the committee, “beg[ged]” Paul to stand down and let the mark-up process on the bill continue, arguing that if the committee’s work had to be limited to two hours per day it would take more than two months to complete the legislation.