Friday | May 29, 2015
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Senate GOP blocks vote on Obama’s 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 some 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.

The Kentucky senator, who is the son of former Texas Rep. and libertarian leader Ron Paul, offered to cease if President Barack Obama or Attoney 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.

Paul began speaking shortly before noon 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 Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined Paul briefly three hours into the debate but turned it back to him.

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

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.

If confirmed, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA’s deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned.