WASHINGTON, March 5 ,2013 – At 11:47 a.m. ET this morning, the Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, took the floor and embarked on an old-fashioned talking filibuster, vowing to “speak until I can no longer speak.”
For over nine hours, he succeeded in blocking a vote on the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Director.
Paul made it clear from the beginning, however, that he takes no issue with Brennan personally. There is a greater issue at stake, according to Paul. Serving as counterterrorism chief, Brennan was instrumental in the design and implementation of President Obama’s drone warfare program, a program of which Paul has been extremely critical.
The Obama administration’s equivocation on the issue of drone strikes on U.S. soil has been a source of much chagrin for libertarian-leaning Paul, who has been widely touted as a potential frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
In a March 4 letter, Attorney General Eric Holder stated that, “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution … for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” including against American citizens.
Brennan sent a letter to Paul the following day, stating that, “The CIA does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States, nor does it have the authority to do so.”
Paul’s goal for the filibuster, then, was about more than Brennan. Surely Paul would like to see a different nominee, but he needed forty unlikely votes for that possibility to become reality. Raising awareness about the issue was Paul’s main goal. That may prove to be an uphill battle, as well – a 2012 poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor the president’s drone warfare program.
As part of his extensive filibuster speech, Paul offered this response to Holder and Obama:
“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 and unequivocal, ‘no.’
“The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that? So 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.’”
This isn’t the first time Paul has filibustered major Senate proceedings. In 2011, he prevented a vote on the renewal of the PATRIOT Act for seven hours, but was eventually foiled by Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Rand Paul has emerged as a polished and subdued version of his father, Ron Paul, the perennial presidential candidate. While he lacks the elder Paul’s strict adherence to principle, he has shown great tenacity and a keen ability to communicate his message.
A handful of other libertarian-minded Senators have joined with Paul to take on several issues since his election in 2010. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of them. Today, he gave Paul a short rest, taking the floor for a number of minutes in support of the filibuster.
Cruz emphasized the uproarious response Senator Paul’s reaction garnered in the Twittersphere. #StandWithRand, #filibuster, and #RandPaul, among others, were all trending on Twitter at the time of this writing. Paul also coined the hash-tag #filiblizzard for good measure.
One such tweet from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) read as follows: “Why won’t Pres Obama simply state that it’s unconstitutional & illegal for gov’t to kill Americans in US w/o due process? #StandWithRand”
Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and others also joined Paul in the filibuster effort.
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