Sen. Rand Paul Finishes Filibuster After Nearly 13 Hours

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WASHINGTON
(AP) — A Republican senator and tea party favorite from Kentucky used
an old-style filibuster lasting nearly 13 hours to take control of the
chamber and block Senate confirmation of John Brennan's nomination to be
CIA director.

Sen. Rand Paul ended his
filibuster Thursday shortly after midnight, but Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell, also a Kentucky Republican, said he would continue to
oppose Brennan's confirmation and resist ending the debate on President
Barack Obama's nominee to lead the spy agency.

Paul's
performance, which centered on questions about the possible use of
drones against targets in the United States, clearly energized a number
of his GOP colleagues, who came to the floor in a show of support and to
share in the speaking duties. And even as the night progressed, Paul
appeared invigorated despite being on his feet for so long. Actual
talking filibusters have become rare in the Senate, where the rules are
typically used in procedural ways to block the other party's agenda.

After
Paul yielded the floor, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., filed a motion to cut
off debate on Brennan's nomination, setting up a vote for later this
week.

Paul, a critic of Obama's drone policy,
started just before noon Wednesday by demanding the president or
Attorney General Eric Holder issue a statement assuring that the
aircraft would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism
suspects who are U.S. citizens. But by the time he left the Senate
floor, Paul said he'd received no response.

Paul
wasn't picky about the format, saying at one point he'd be happy with a
telegram or a Tweet. Paul said he recognized he can't stop Brennan from
being confirmed. But the nomination was the right vehicle for a debate
over what the Obama White House believes are the limits of the federal
government's ability to conduct lethal operations against suspected
terrorists, he said.

“No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner,” Paul said.

The
Obama administration has said it has not conducted such operations
inside U.S. borders nor does it intend to. Paul and backers said that
wasn't good enough. They wanted the White House to rule out the
possibility of them happening altogether.

About
a dozen of Paul's colleagues who share his conservative views came to
the floor to take turns speaking for him and trading questions.
McConnell congratulated Paul for his “tenacity and for his conviction,”
and he called Brennan a “controversial nominee.”

Sen.
Ted Cruz, R-Texas, read Twitter messages from people eager to “Stand
With Rand.” The Twitterverse, said Cruz, is “blowing up.” And as the
night went on, Cruz spoke for longer periods as Paul leaned against a
desk across the floor. Cruz, an insurgent Republican with strong tea
party backing, read passages from Shakespeare's “Henry V” and lines from
the 1970 movie “Patton,” starring George C. Scott.

Sen.
Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made references to rappers Jay-Z and Wiz Khalifa.
Rubio, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, chided the White
House for failing to respond to Paul. “It's not a Republican question.
It's not a conservative question,” Rubio said. “It's a constitutional
question.”

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 overseas.
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 he can yield to another
senator for a question.

Not all Republicans
were as enthusiastic about Paul's performance. Sen. Lindsey Graham,
R-S.C., said the prospect of drones being used to kill people in the
United States was “ridiculous” and he called the debate “paranoia
between libertarians and the hard left that is unjustified.”

Rep.
Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
echoed Graham. He said it is unconstitutional for the U.S. military or
intelligence agencies to conduct lethal counterterrorism operations in
the United States against U.S. citizens. Suggesting they can or might,
Rogers said, “provokes needless fear and detracts attention from the
real threats facing the country.”

Paul, who is
the son of former Texas congressman and libertarian leader Ron Paul,
offered at one point during the filibuster 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.

Along
with Cruz, Rubio and McConnell, other Republican senators who joined
Paul on the floor included Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, John
Barrasso of Wyoming, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Jeff Flake of Arizona,
Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and Ron Johnson
of Wisconsin. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also made an appearance. Wyden
has long pressed for greater oversight of the use of drones.

Holder
came close to making the statement Paul wanted earlier Wednesday 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 on U.S. soil a U.S.
citizen who doesn't pose an imminent threat. Holder said the situation
was hypothetical, but he did not think that in that situation the use of
a drone or lethal force would be appropriate. Cruz criticized Holder
for not simply saying “no” in response.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Paul, Brennan said the CIA does not have authority to conduct lethal operations inside the U.S.

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. Holder cited the
attacks at Pearl Harbor and on Sept. 11, 2001, as examples.

Paul
said he did not dispute that the president has the authority to take
swift and lethal action against an enemy who carried out a significant
attack against the United States. But Paul said he was “alarmed” at how
difficult it has been to get the administration to clearly define what
qualifies as a legitimate target of a drone strike.

The
record for the longest individual speech on the Senate floor belongs to
former Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who filibustered for 24
hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Paul
ended his lengthy speech with a joke. He said that he was tempted to go
another 12 hours and try to break Thurmond's record, but he needed to
use the bathroom.

“I discovered that there are
some limits to filibustering and I'm going to have to go and take care
of one of those in a few minutes,” Paul said.

Brennan's
nomination won approval Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee
after the White House broke a lengthy impasse by agreeing to give
lawmakers access to top-secret legal opinions justifying the use of
lethal drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects overseas.

If
confirmed, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy
director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in
November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.

Brennan
currently serves as Obama's top counterterrorism adviser in the White
House. He was nominated for the CIA post by the president in early
January.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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