Paul and Roberts have been battling over the question, which was expected to be about the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Because the question is thought to name the whistleblower and Roberts is responsible for reading the questions aloud, that would put him in the position of publicly outing the person on the floor of the Senate.
“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” Roberts said.
Roberts then sat the slip of paper with Paul’s query aside and the Senate moved on to the next question.
Paul argued during a brief press conference after the floor drama that his question “made no reference to any whistleblower” and that Roberts’s decision was an “incorrect finding.”
Paul then read his question, which names both a staff member for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the individual who has been reported in conservative media as the possible whistleblower, and asks about their contacts.
Paul could have challenged Roberts’s decision to refuse his question. Speculation had swirled around the Capitol on Thursday that Paul would try to overrule Roberts and potentially force the Senate to try to table his question.
Republican senators had made it clear that they did not support Paul’s effort to name the whistleblower.
“We’ve been respectful of the chief justice’s unique position in reading our questions, and I want to assure him that that level of consideration for him will continue,” McConnell said.
A source confirmed Wednesday that Roberts has indicated he would not read a question from Paul regarding the whistleblower.
Paul argued that his colleagues were making selective use of federal whistleblower laws and the Privacy Act of 1974.
“A statue shouldn’t be such that people can use and then nobody says they know who the person is, but anybody you say might be is all the sudden protected from being part of the debate,” he said.
The Hill is not naming the individual being targeted by Republicans. It is also typically the policy of The Associated Press and other major news outlets not to reveal the identity of whistleblowers, who enjoy federal protections against retribution.
Updated at 1:58 p.m.