US senator ends filibuster of Brennan nomination as CIA head
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Kentucky Republican Rand Paul took the floor of the US Senate on Wednesday and spoke for nearly 13 hours in an attempt to block the confirmation of John Brennan as President Barack Obama’s next CIA director in a protest of the administration’s policy of using drones in targeted killings.
Paul began shortly before noon in a rare old-fashioned filibuster – in which a senator speaks until he can continue no longer – yielding the floor shortly before 1am EST (0600 GMT) on Thursday.
“I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering, and I am going to have to take care of one of those in a few minutes here,” he said to laughter, after thanking his supporters, staff and US Capitol employees.
Paul’s action did not keep the Senate from voting on whether Brennan, Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, should lead the US spy agency, but he delayed it until at least Thursday.
After Paul finished, Senator Richard Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, entered motions to clear the way for the confirmation to move ahead.
There could still be a further wait for a final confirmation vote, because of Senate rules that require 60 votes to stop debate, followed by a waiting period before a final vote.
It was not clear whether Republicans would agree to waive those rules. The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, who like Paul represents Kentucky, said during the filibuster that he would not back a motion to end debate and clear the way for a vote.
Brennan’s confirmation, which requires only a simple majority of 51 votes in the full 100-member Senate, is expected when the vote finally takes place.
The Democrats control 55 votes in the Senate and Brennan is also supported by many Republicans.
The filibuster was not a protest of Brennan’s qualifications to lead the CIA, but a vehicle for Paul to draw attention to his demands for more information about the drone programme.
Best known for his libertarian tendencies, Paul said he was protesting against a US policy of using unmanned drone aircraft in foreign conflicts, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to rule out any possibility of drone strikes against US citizens on American soil.
“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 said.