Rand Paul Launches Filibuster - The Talking Kind - Against John Brennan
Original Post at 2:09 p.m. - With a blanket of snow the capitol and the federal government shut down and John Brennan poised to be confirmed as CIA Director, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who has a little bit of libertarian running in his veins, is engaging in the most traditional form of filibuster - talk.
In today's Washington the filibuster has evolved into a sort of bipartisan détente that most everything requires 60 votes, which has sort of made the word lose some of it's meaning.
But Paul doesn't have 40 votes and he wants to make a point about Brennan, the White House adviser who is seen as architect of the administration's policy of using unmanned drone to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries. A vote to make Brennan CIA Director could come as soon as today.
Mr. Smith would be proud. That's how most Americans probably view a filibuster: Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith reading aloud for hours and hours in pursuit of righting some wrong.
The wrong, for Rand Paul, is the Obama administration's targeted killing program - the use of drones to bomb suspected terrorists in foreign lands - is Constitutional. His concern hit a new level Monday when his office released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder explaining that the administration feels it has the ability, in the extremely unlikely situation, to kill Americans on U.S. soil to avert an imminent terror attack.
"I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan's nomination for the CIA, Paul declared at about 11:47 a.m. ET. "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. that Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in bowling green, Kentucky, is an abomination. it is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country."
Paul said he doesn't necessarily think President Obama will abuse the power. But no president, said Paul, should have the power to kill Americans in the U.S. without a trial by jury.
Here's an excerpt:
"When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. it should have been a resounding and unequivocal, "no." The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, I haven't killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But i might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the president the - you know, they give him consideration, They say he's a good man. I'm not arguing he's not. what I'm arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don't rule government.
More recently, a filibuster is any time the minority party blocks something that could be passed by the majority. That can take several forms. Senators agreed earlier this year to a series of rule changes to cut down on the time it takes to move through these procedural roadblocks while preserving the minority's right to object.
Paul is certainly in the minority on the issue of drones and targeted killing. An ABC News / Washington Post Poll in February of 2012 found that 83 percent of Americans support the program. Paul would argue that the program is so shrouded in secrecy that people don't know enough about it. Drawing attention is a stated goal of his filibuster today.
It is important to remember that this traditional form of filibuster is doomed to fail. The human body can only go on so long. Paul has promised to talk until he can't talk any more, but admitted, "Ultimately I will not win; there are not enough votes."
As of this writing he has been going for about two hours and he hasn't yet run out of things to say about drones or the Constitution.
The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who spent some 8 hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.
But the record for longest filibuster goes to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who died in 2003, filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
It is not clear if Paul's will last that long. Indeed, the Fox News host Lou Dobbs Tweeted just before 2 p.m. ET, that Paul would be joining him on his show, which starts at 7 p.m. ET.. And considering the bipartisan support the Obama administration, there is little doubt that Brennan will ultimately be confirmed.
No such luck for Caitlin Halligan, who didn't require a long speech to be filibustered today. Halligan's nomination to sit on the Federal District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was blocked by Republicans who feel she is too liberal, particularly on the issue of the 2nd amendment. Halligan got a majority 51 votes, but was defeated on the procedural motion, where she needed 60.
Here are some updates from the filibuster:
Update: 6:19 p.m. - At about 6:15, Sen. Rand Paul snuck some food on the Senate floor. That's probably against Senate rules, but then again the folks who were helping him earlier all appear to have left. He hasn't had anyone ask a question for about an hour.
Updated: 4:46 p.m. - Just about exactly five hours into Rand Paul's filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asks for consent to move toward a vote. Paul says he'd happily move toward a vote if the White House will make a statement that the drone program will not kill Americans not involved in terrorism. Reid says he can't speak for the President or the attorney general. Reid indicates the vote on Brennan will happen on Thursday if and when Paul yields the floor.
Updated 4:42 p.m - Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has joined the filibuster. Chambliss was one of three Republicans to oppose Brennan in the committee's vote. Another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, comes to help out too.
Update at 3:52 p.m. - Sen. Ted Cruz reads William Travis's famous "victory or death" letter from the Alamo. The Alamo fell 117 years ago today, something Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul have pointed out. So too is their effort to block John Brennan ultimately ill-fated. The four senators who have undertaken the filibuster, led by Paul, lack the votes.
Sen. Ron Wyden is an example of why Brennan will ultimately be confirmed. Wyden is a Democrat with concerns about drones and oversight. But he has joined the conversation on the Senate floor to dicuss the issue with Paul.
"Every American has a right to know when their government feels it has a right to kill them," said Wyden.
Update at 3:10 p.m. - Now joining Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who today questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the remote possibility that the government would kill Americans in the U.S. without due process. Twenty minutes later, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas takes to the floor.
Update at 2:59 p.m. - Utah Sen. Mike Lee gives Sen. Rand Paul a break just about three hours after starting his filibuster.
Update at 2:47 p.m. - Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been filibustering John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA for three hours.
ABC's Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.