The New York Times reported today on a Senate floor speech by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) in which he criticized the CIA's actions on torture and mentioned a secret internal report. The article goes on:
Republicans carefully reviewed Mr. Udall’s floor speech to see if he divulged secret information, and came to the conclusion he had not. Given earlier comments that he was willing to read the Senate report on the floor if it was not made public, Republicans said they were also prepared to thwart him on that front.
“We were ready,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “I was prepared to go to the floor and take him on if he started to release classified information. But I really thought at the end of the day he would not want that to be his legacy.”
What could Senator Chambliss and other Republicans have done?
The US Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause generally protects members of Congress from prosecution for anything they say as part of congressional debate or business. A famous precendent is the case of Senator Mike Gravel, who in 1971 read the classified Pentagon Papers into the record of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. And I had understood that Senate rules generally let a senator speak for as long as he or she wants (which is why the filibuster works), so would the Republicans have had a way to cut off Udall's speech?