WASHINGTON – Senator Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s CIA nominee early today, nearly 13 hours after he began.
Paul, a Kentucky Republican and tea party favorite had been blocking confirmation of John Brennan to lead the CIA. GOP colleagues who were listening to Paul’s closing statement applauded as he yielded the floor.
In a show of support earlier, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came to the Senate floor and congratulated Paul for his “tenacity and for his conviction.”
Paul, Republican critic of Obama’s unmanned drone policy, started just before noon 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.
Paul said he recognized that 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.
Paul, 50, received intermittent support early on from several other conservative senators 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.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, read Twitter messages from people eager to “Stand With Rand.”
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. 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.
“No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner,” Paul said.
Not all Republicans were so 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 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. 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.