Rand Paul launches lengthy debate to block CIA pick

Filibuster started just before noon

Richard Lardner/Associated Press, Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican critic of the Obama administration's drone policy mounted a self-described filibuster Wednesday to block Senate confirmation of John Brennan to take over as director of the CIA.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took the floor shortly before noon. With intermittent support from other conservatives holding similar views, plus Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Paul spoke almost continuously for five hours before Majority Leader Harry Reid tried but failed to move to a vote on Brennan.

Paul resumed his oration, snacking on candy at the dinner hour while continuing to speak. At one point, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, who walks haltingly with a cane because of a stroke, delivered a canister of hot tea and an apple to Paul's desk, but a doorkeeper removed them.

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Paul read from notebooks filled with articles about the expanded use of the unmanned weapons that have become the centerpiece of the Obama administration's campaign against al-Qaida suspects. As he moved about the Senate floor, aides brought him glasses of water, which he barely touched. Senate rules say a senator has to remain on the floor to continue to hold it, even though they can yield to another senator for a question.

The Kentucky senator, who is the son of former Texas congressman and libertarian leader Ron Paul, offered to cease if President Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement assuring that drones would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism suspects who are U.S. citizens.

Later in the evening Paul offered to allow a vote on Brennan if the Senate would vote on his resolution stating that the use of the unmanned, armed aircraft on U.S. soil against American citizens violates the Constitution. Democrats rejected the offer.

Reid, D-Nev., said he planned to file a motion to bring debate over Brennan's nomination to an end, if not on Thursday, then Friday or next week. Reid had pushed for a confirmation vote Wednesday. Technically, the Senate had not even started the debate on Brennan's nomination before Paul took control of the floor almost immediately after Republicans successfully blocked a vote on a federal appeals court nominee.

Paul's speech began at 11:47 a.m. with him declaring, "I will speak until I can no longer speak." He focused on what he said was the Obama administration's refusal to rule out the use of drone strikes inside U.S. borders against American citizens. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Wyden joined Paul briefly three hours into the debate but turned it back to him. Wyden has long pressed for greater oversight of the use of drones.

The record for the longest individual speech on the Senate floor belongs to former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Holder came close to making the statement Paul wanted earlier in the day during an exchange with Cruz at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, according to Paul.

Cruz asked Holder if the Constitution allowed the federal government to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who doesn't pose an imminent threat. Holder said the situation was hypothetical, but that he did not think that in that situation the use of a drone or lethal force would be appropriate. Cruz criticized Holder for not simply saying "no" in response.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Paul, Brennan said the CIA does not have authority to conduct lethal operations inside the U.S.

Brennan's bid to lead the spy agency received a boost when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday that he is leaning toward voting for Brennan after receiving detailed information about the attack last September on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Graham, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had said they would oppose the nomination on the Senate floor if they didn't get classified information detailing the Obama administration's actions immediately following the attack that killed four Americans.

Graham also criticized his GOP colleagues, calling the prospect of drones being used to kill people in the United States "ridiculous."

"I think it's paranoia between libertarians and the hard left that is unjustified," Graham said. "I trust this president and other presidents to exercise commander-in-chief authority in a time of war."

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Graham. "Any suggestion that the United States would use drone strikes against U.S. citizens in the United States is irresponsible," Rogers said.

Holder told Paul in a March 4 letter that the federal government has not conducted such operations and has no intention of doing so. But Holder also wrote that he supposed it was possible under an "extraordinary circumstance" that the president would have no choice but to authorize the military to use lethal force inside U.S. borders. Holder cited the attacks at Pearl Harbor and on Sept. 11, 2001, as examples.

Paul said he did not dispute that the president has the authority to take swift and lethal action against an enemy that carried out a significant attack against the United States. But Paul said he was "alarmed" at how difficult it has been to get the administration to clearly define what qualifies as a legitimate target of a drone strike.

"No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner," Paul said.

Brennan's nomination won approval Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee after the White House broke a lengthy impasse by agreeing to give lawmakers access to top-secret legal opinions justifying the use of lethal drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects overseas.

If confirmed, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.

Brennan currently serves as Obama's top counterterrorism adviser in the White House. He was nominated for the CIA post by the president in early January and the Intelligence Committee held his confirmation hearing on Feb. 7.

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  • Senator Rand Paul is the same A-hole who joined 22 other Republican Senators and voted AGAINST the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). He tried to make the argument that he did so because he feels that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to protect women from domestic abuse...REALLY? What an ultramaroon! The final VAWA, which passed 78-22 in the Senate, cleared the House 286-138, with mostly Democratic votes.

  • This issue deserves Senate oversight and Senate held hearings, not some grandstanding publicity stunt by our junior Senator with a bad wig who can't hold his own in an interview with Rachel Maddow. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Some of you people seem to think that everything is a conspiracy...keep those tin foil hats close, because you are right...they are out there to get you and it is not safe! Those black helicoptery lookin' things up in the sky are watching YOU! Not your neighbor, but you! And they think that YOU are the terrorist, which in some cases, probably isn't really that much off of reality, with all of your secessionist talk and all.

  • Actually I would say the same thing if he was a Democrat! My problem with the whole situation is it started from a hypothetical question in an interview and resulted in a man getting paid to not work and to also hold up all other work! It's was a waste of our money and if you think about it and look at the reasons why, it all points back to face time and money for a future Presidential run. Don't fall for the scare tactics people!

  • Shogun is right & everybody posting would be p!zzed if they or their family were unaware of being close to a suspected terrorist & got blown to pieces. At least when the police over react & get scared of a man in his home & shoots, the collateral damage would most likely only be a bullet hole in the wall instead of a whole block blown to smithereens. Lets be real for a moment, if this had been a democrat filibustering over this subject then most would be in agreement. The very fact that they wont say NO to using drones makes this a possibility that it may very well happen someday. We still have a constitution folks, lets stick to it!

  • Shogun, you have not been paying attention to current events. The CIA has been operating the highly successful drone kill a terrorist with a ****-fire missile program under this administration. You also didn't hear anything about firing missiles into your neighbor's home because they were a suspected terrorist...admit it, you just made that up, or worse, watched FOX News! Nobody, but nobody is gonna do that. This is war and the terrorists do not get due process. The people around the terrorists are other terrorists and/or their families. I have no problem with that, and actually it acts as a very effective deterrent. It is one thing to get yourself killed in your jihad and go to heaven to your 72 virgins, it is entirely another thing to wipe out you entire gene pool in the process. Islamic mothers are helping keep their sons from becoming jihadists...very effective indeed. BTW, Bush wiretapped 20,000 phones of citizens who were totally innocent without warrants. Talk about living in a bubble...jeeze!

  • Best quote about Rand Paul to date: "If only his reasoning matched the showmanship."

  • This was all based on a hypothetical question! There was, and is, no statement anywhere from anyone in any party that said there would be drone strikes! This is simply one man trying to get face time and to jump start his campaign for presidency! I don’t understand why so many people are biting on this and putting Rand on a pedestal!

  • The military operates the drones and they should not be utilized on our soil unless we have been attacked and the entire country knows it. I cannot believe most of the people that have commented thus far are complaining about Sen. Paul and don't seem too concerned about a drone being used to fire a Hellfire missile into your neighbors house because they suspect he or she is a terrorist. I recall everyone up in arms when Pres. Bush wanted to wiretap phones without a warrant and now most of you think it's okay to assassinate an American citizen on American soil. Does anyone remember Waco??? Can you imagine the outrage if Pres. Clinton authorized a drone strike? What happened in Waco and the way it went down was bad enough. I can understand having to use drones in foreign countries but I still don't like it when they kill everyone that happened to be in the proximity of the suspected terrorist. We are better than that in this country or at least we are supposed to be. If the government suspects an American citizen living in this country is a terrorist then why can't the FBI follow the rules, obtain the evidence and get a warrant to arrest that person. This is the same president that said we would not torture (waterboard) suspected terrorists locked up at GitMo because we were better than that but now won't say he will not use drones to kill a suspected terrorist without due process.

  • If you take his base salary only... Rand got paid nearly $1300.00 for using talking to get out of working! This should make anyone on either side angry! Wouldn't you like to get paid to talk all day instead of working! What a joke!

  • The example I heard given of the extraordinary circumstances where a drone may be used to take out an "American citizen" on our own soil was like: during another 911 type event, where a person who was born here and therefore, is technically a citizen, but belongs to a terrorist group like al qaeda, and there was no other way to get them before they did something else that would cause great harm. What does it matter what the weapon is that takes out this American citizen in name only, as long as they do it before they strike again. ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Let's be honest here, the word "drone" pushes people's (especially conservatives) emotional buttons because they have been conditioned by right wing media to associate it with Obama who they hate for reasons that they cannot clearly describe, but it has something to do with this illegitimate President who was born in Kenya and is the worst socialist in the world, if the recovering economy and booming DOW Jones is any indication! ;-)

  • Rand Paul's filibuster was grandstanding opposition to an untested policy about the use of drones in the U.S. against citizens and whether the president has the power to order such a strike. If a city copy may shoot and kill a U.S. citizen in their home if they are perceived to be a threat, I think the president can have a drone shoot a native terrorist. I WANT HIM TO! .......................................................... Rand Paul used a filibuster during the action to approve John Brennan as head of the CIA in order to rag on the president. Rand Paul is a dufous!

  • Is this the best Ky has to offer ? All he's doing is laying out his future for the Republican Party. Surely the voters in this state aren't this stupid. Let's hope not! Hannity loves this idiot, but Hannity is an idiot also!

  • What the Senator is speaking out against here is the threat of execution of US citizens without due process. I can't see why anyone, on either side of the aisle, would disagree with him on this!

  • This nut has done nothing except waste taxpayers money with these crazy stunts knowing all along that this stupid fillibuster would not work. He is an embar(***)ment to all Kentuckians. PLEASE vote this nut out of office. I know that we have many smart informed people in this state that could defeat him.

  • I disagree with pretty much everything he stands for, but I applaud him for actually standing up to filibuster instead of the normal weaselly way the Republicans anonymously block nominations without having to actually stand before the American public and make their case openly and on record.