This story has been corrected.
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a pile-up of Senate business – including Sen. Rand Paul’s 10-hour Senate floor speech Wednesday protesting government surveillance that temporarily distracted D.C. for a day – derailed two rival candidates’ plans to hit the campaign trail in Oklahoma, Dr. Ben Carson got a time-slot upgrade.
The conservative firebrand and presidential candidate will replace Sen. Ted Cruz as the headline speaker at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference’s Friday night gala dinner, organizers said. Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, will also speak.
Carson declared his candidacy for president earlier this month, but he remains a long-shot. The renowned neurosurgeon has never held elected office and he has burned bridges with his controversial comments, like when he compared being gay to pedophilia, something for which he later (sort of) apologized.
Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio both cancelled planned speeches on Friday in order to remain in Washington for a rare Saturday vote on two national security bills and continued handling of the trade bill on Friday, which comes just days after Paul took advantage of a delay in Senate work to weigh in with a epic talkathon distracting D.C. for a day.
Rubio recorded a video message for the 1000-plus conservative activists present at Friday’s summit. For his part, Cruz is also expected to send a video message.
In Paul’s all-day talkathon, he protested the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, condemning the NSA’s bulk data collection program and demanding reform. The speech was not technically a filibuster and did not technically delay the Senate’s debate. However, the pile-up of Senate business – including a trade bill and remaining national security votes – forced a Saturday vote during the Memorial Day weekend before certain Patriot Act provisions expire June 1.
Senate Republicans argue that the act is critical for counterterrorism, including the ability to combat ISIS militants and other terror groups. The White House supports its passage, but Paul and some Democrats oppose it because of the broad NSA surveillance it authorizes.
Rubio support’s the bill’s passage, while Cruz supports altering it with the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would rein in NSA surveillance while preserving some of the more popular portions of the bill.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Paul’s filibuster was the cause of the delay; it occurred simultaneously but did not technically delay the vote as he concluded his talk before the Senate rules allowed business to move forward.