Filibusters John Brennan Nomination
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WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor Wednesday he intended to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA, citing concerns about President Barack Obama's policy on civil liberties.
"I will speak until I can no longer speak," Paul said.
Paul, an outspoken libertarian, pointed to what he called the abuses of executive power and civil liberties under Obama's administration. In particular, he objected to the contents of a letter he received from Attorney General Eric Holder that asserted the U.S. government had the legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on American soil.
"Where is the Barack Obama of 2007?" he asked, referring to then-presidential candidate Obama's criticism of Bush-era violations of civil liberties. "If there were an ounce of courage in this body, I would be joined by many other senators," he added. "Are we going to give up our rights to politicians?"
Paul had asked the Justice Department about the constitutionality of drone strikes and whether they could be used agains U.S. citizens. Holder responded in a letter that conceded the military could authorize a drone strike on U.S. soil.
"It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," Holder wrote.
Paul elaborated on his concern Wednesday: "When I asked the president, 'Can you kill an American on American soil,' it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding an unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, ‘I haven’t killed anyone yet.’ He goes on to say, ‘And I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.’ Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that?"
Paul started his filibuster speech around 11:45 a.m. Unlike most modern filibusters, the Kentucky senator is actually attempting to talk through the whole thing -- like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" -- rather than simply raising his hand to object and requiring 60 votes to proceed. The last "talking" filibuster was in 2010, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), spoke out against extending the Bush-era tax cuts. Filibuster reform advocates have proposed returning to this old-fashioned style.
"I will not sit quietly and let him shred the constitution," Paul said of Obama, later adding that getting an answer from the president on drone strikes was like "pulling teeth."
The White House declined to comment Wednesday.
Paul's speech drew on the work of bloggers from both the left and right who have criticized the president on civil liberties, such as Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic. Kevin Williamson of the National Review also earned a mention for a piece he wrote asking whether under Obama's standards the Nixon and Johnson administrations should have bombed college campuses.
"To be bombed in your sleep? There's nothing American about that," Paul said. "There's nothing constitutional about that."
Last week, Paul voted for the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary -- another key Obama national security appointment -- after first voting against cloture on the matter, saying he was using his vote to try to get more information about Hagel.
Brennan's confirmation was expected as soon as Wednesday, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. Following Paul's filibuster, the aide was still "cautiously optimistic" that once the senator ended his speech a time agreement for a vote could be reached.
Paul also used his filibuster Wednesday to speak out against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He conceded that he would have supported the Afghanistan war at the outset, but said it had since become far wider than its initial response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The problem is as this war has dragged on, they take that authorization of use of force to mean pretty much anything, and so they have now said that the war has no geographic limitations," he said. "So it's really not a war in Afghanistan, it's a war in Yemen, Somalia, Mali. It's a war in unlimited places."
Paul went on to reprimand Congress for ceding its authority to govern U.S. wars. "Were we a body that cared about our prerogative to declare war, we would take that power back," he said. "But I'll tell you how poor -- and this is on both sides of the aisle -- how poor is our understanding or belief in retaining that power here."
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined the filibuster just before 3 p.m., giving Paul a break after more than three hours of speaking.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) then took over for Lee just after 3:10 p.m. "You must surely be making Jimmy Stewart smile," he said.
Paul resumed speaking around 3:45 p.m, and the filibuster went bipartisan just before 4:00 pm, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined in.
Wyden said he intended to vote for Brennan's confirmation, but added that the nomination provided an opportunity to seek more information on the Obama administration's legal documentation for targeted killings. He said the Senate Intelligence Committee had gotten that information.
Sure seems hypocritical to me that this administration complained so much about water-boarding terrorist but has no problem killing American citizens in America without a trial...
While this filibuster was intended to block or delay the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA, Imo it was more about the hypocrisy of this administration along with the questionable idea of actually killing American citizens on U.S. soil, via drone strikes without a trial while they were the ones crying so loudly about water-boarding terrorist as being torture.
Evidently just killing someone ( possible American citizens ) is not torture.
Just posted about this just an hour ago, didn't even see this one or I would have added to it.
You have summed it up exactly as it was intended.
The waterboarding was done to terrorists not American citizens and the left was up in arms and most were/are silent on this matter. I applaud Code Pink for giving the backing to Sen. Paul on this issue.
I am not sure who said it but to think that Obama has the use of Bush era warrentless wiretaps from know terror areas overseas. How easily can that be used to justify a drone strike on someone in America. Holder stands up and says, "X was talking with Y and Y is a known terrorist in Yeman, so he used a drone to kill X at his home in Montana." Scary, real scary.
If this was 8 yrs ago MSNBC and others on the left would be calling for President Bush to be impeached. But really they are silent on the matter, well silent until the white house tells them what to say.
Rand Paul the biggest joke to ever be a joke. Seriously a 13 hour filibuster? OK. Talk about a waste of time and money, I did see him hawking up part of a sandwich on the news this morning while he was trying to talk. That was worth my time!
OK what if it was the unknown comic with a sack over his head and nobody knew if it was a Rep a Dem or Ind or whatever, imo its about the drone policy and if you agree or not that American citizens should be killed on American soil without a trial.
and yes the hawking up part of a Milky Way bar was right up there with Rubio drinking water....
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