Senator launches lengthy debate to block CIA pick
WASHINGTON – 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.