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Kentucky Senator makes a stand

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March 15, 2013


By Matthew Schmidgall

Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.: “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak,”[1] With these words Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky initiated a filibuster to delay the senate vote on the confirmation of the President's nominee to the head of the CIA and to draw attention to the questions surrounding the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or "drones" by the executive branch. Paul began speaking shortly before noon on Wednesday, March 6, and continued to speak for 12 hours and 52 minutes, which made his speech the 9th longest filibuster in the history of the Senate.[2] When asked why this sort of event does not occur more frequently, Paul explained that since who speaks on the Senate floor is decided by the leadership of the Senate, it's often difficult to begin a traditional filibuster. "One of the reasons filibusters don't occur is because they carefully guard the floor from letting it happen. And it was left unguarded," he said,"We had no plan and I had the wrong shoes on, my feet were hurting the whole day,"[3]

The main topic of Paul's speech was the use of drones as a means of attacking American citizens on U.S. soil, asking "Your notification is the buzz of propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you're killed. Is that what we really want from our government?"[4]. Paul protested the lack of transparency in the drone program, asking "What will be the standard for how we kill Americans in America?... Could political dissent be part of the standard for drone strikes?"[5] Paul questioned the President's refusal to state publicly that such strikes would not be used against citizens on U.S. soil saying, "[Obama] says trust him because he hasn’t done it yet. He says he doesn’t intend to do so, but he might. Mr. President, that’s not good enough . . . so I’ve come here to speak for as long as I can to draw attention to something that I find to really be very disturbing.”[6] Paul concluded his remarks asking for his counterparts on the other side of the aisle to join him in his efforts to obtain clarification from the president.[7]

A total of 14 senators joined Paul in the filibuster -- 13 Republicans and one Democrat.[8][9][10] According to the website Breitbart, 30 Republican senators did not support the filibuster.[11][12] The day after the filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul, responding to the filibuster. Holder wrote, "Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil? The answer to that is no."[13]

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Category:Congressional news, 2013