This article is by The Washington Bureau of The Fiscal Times: Josh Boak, Brianna Ehley, David Francis and Eric Pianin.
On Tuesday, weather forecasters warned that a late winter storm would blanket the nation’s capital. The “storm” quickly became known as the “snowquester,” a play on the sequester that took effect last week. Leave it to Washington to come up with a dorky name for a somewhat common weather event. Think “snowpocalypse,” “snowmageddon” and the “derecho.”
But unlike past storms, the snowquester did not live up to its hype. Not even close. In most places around the Washington region, there simply was no snow.
Of course, that didn’t stop the federal government from cancelling work Wednesday, just in case. Coincidentally, this technically meets sequestration’s 20 percent furlough requirement. Except workers were paid to stay home today.
This was TFT’s assistant news editor’s first experience with Washington’s winter weather panic. She’s from Minnesota, a place where snowstorms include, well, at the very least, snow, and are usually accompanied by ice and temperatures well below today’s average temperature of 37 degrees. Needless to say, she prefers Washington’s version of a snowstorm.
But the city’s unexpected and overdramatic shutdown made for a slow day at TFT’s Washington bureau. Lucky for us, Sen. Rand Paul decided to take to the Senate dais around noon and announce to an empty chamber and the ten people watching on CSPAN (including the four of us) that he was filibustering (or ‘filiblizzarding’) John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, because, well, why not?
He began talking about drones, then tapered off into a history lesson, reminding African American voters that Republicans were once their champions, and asked if they’d like to come back into the fold, adding a few minutes later that he thought Jim Crow laws were still pretty bad.
By 4 p.m., while talking about the bravery of men at the Alamo, he tagged Sen. Ted Cruz, the controversial Tea Party darling from Texas, to play the part of Colonel William B. Travis. Cruz dramatically read a letter Travis had written in the Alamo’s final hours. Though, as an actor, he has nothing on Alec Baldwin, another Tea Party favorite, who played Travis in a 1987 television movie.
Later in the day, Marco Rubio and Saxby Chambliss joined Paul. They talked about drones again. Then Harry Reid said something. No one appeared to listen. He went away. The filibuster continued. Paul read an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland and asked, “Is America the beautiful becoming Alice’s Wonderland?” Then he talked about drones again. As of 6:30 PM, he had yet to visit the restroom.
Overall, it was a weird Wednesday in Washington. First, the House actually managed to do something, passing a continuing resolution that will defuse a government shutdown for a few months. House members then proceeded to skip town for the week.
On the Senate side, Paul continues to filibuster a nominee that few in Washington oppose. An up-and-coming conservative who played the part of a man made famous by a liberal icon briefly joined him, and millions of federal workers enjoyed a paid snow day that had no snow.
It began in gratuitous panic, and then ended with multiple examples of a city blissfully unaware or willfully ignorant of its own absurdity. By the evening, the few workers who came downtown made their way home through empty streets … with still no snow on the ground. Paul, for his part, continued to talk to an empty Senate chamber.