Rand Paul Ends Confirmation Filibuster, White House Responds
Progressive writers and commentators are tripping over themselves today throughout the blogosphere and social media universe, as they try to reconcile their feelings regarding Republican Senator Rand Paul and his nearly record setting filibuster on the Senate floor, in which he sought to block the confirmation of Paul Brennan to the position CIA Director. Citing what he described as grave concerns over the Obama Administration’s unmanned drone program, which has created numerous political firestorms in recent weeks, Paul stated that he planned to speak as long as he could to draw attention to something he found “very disturbing.”
“I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court,”
Paul stated at the beginning of his speech.
Paul’s nearly thirteen hour filibuster comes following a series of leaked and released internal memos, from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, pointing to a potentially radical shift in the administration’s policies regarding counter-terrorism efforts and domestic civil liberties. Set against the backdrop of NDAA and the increasing scrutiny of activists and political dissidents by federal prosecutors and authorities, Senator Paul’s vocal concerns over the rights of due process and executive authority, highlighted a March 4th letter from Atty. General Eric Holder, in which Holder states that though the Obama Administration and Dept. of Justice had no plans to carry out lethal operations against American citizens within U.S. borders, that certain “extraordinary circumstances” could “force” the administration to take such actions.
Aided and supported in his filibuster by republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, Mr. Paul yielded only to take questions from Republican colleagues before continuing on. In addition to Senators Cruz and Lee, Paul found additional, albeit tepid support from Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who stated that though he voted in favor of Brennan’s confirmation in committee and would vote in favor of it again, that he supported Paul in raising what he described as “a number of important points.”
“I think Senator Paul and I agree that this nomination also provides a very important opportunity for the United States Senate to consider the government’s rules and policies on the targeted killings of Americans and that, of course, has been a central pillar of our nation’s counterterror strategy,”
Wyden said, adding,
“…the executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny, because that’s not how American democracy works.”
Stating that it was not a partisan issue, Paul noted that he voted in favor of the confirmation of Obama Administration nominees John Kerry and Chuck Hagel for the positions of Secretary of State and Defense respectively. The full Senate vote on Brennan was previously delayed by Paul and others, who had requested further information on the administration’s drone program, of which Brennan is viewed as a central figure, having served previously as the Whitehouse’s top counter-terrorism adviser prior to nomination. The filibuster, which ended at 12:40 a.m. EST, failed to stop or considerably hinder the confirmation, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that the full vote would go before the Senate Thursday.
Nevertheless, having grabbed considerable media and public attention, many on both sides of the aisle and throughout ideological spectrum, are lauding Senator Paul for raising the issues surrounding the drone program and potential targeted killings of Americans prior to confirming the next Director of CIA. Prompted (and possibly inspired) by the length and coverage of the filibuster, Atty. General Holder responded to Senator Paul in a two sentence letter, published earlier by Slate,
In an interview with Fox News, Paul responded to Holder’s letter by saying, “I’m quite happy with the answer and I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it.”
Though partisan and ideological entrenchment is seen by many to be at an all time high in the United States, the reactions throughout the political world to Paul and Senate Republicans objections and interference with the Brennan nomination, defy the norms established by what many regard to be a track record of intractable politically motivated obstructionism by the GOP.
With the “twitterverse” veritably afire with vocal and at times confused support for the Libertarian, Tea Party Republican, Paul’s act comes as what many are hailing as a welcomed departure from typical tit-for-tat rhetoric and posturing generally associated in the highly partisan legislature. And with the Obama Administration now firmly stating they have no intent on using unmanned drones on US soil, many progressives and conservatives alike are considering the day a victory for due process and the rule of law in America.