Thursday, March 07, 2013

Rand Paul Filibusters Brennan Confirmation Vote in Senate

Mr. Smith came to Washington, D.C. Wednesday at 11:47 am, ET.  Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director for twelve hours and fifty-two minutes, along with the help of others standing up for the separation of powers and accountability.  

Joined by many Republican senators and one Democrat - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the filibuster should have been a truly bipartisan time. I hope it would have been, had the leading senator been demanding answers from a Republican president. Protecting liberty in American politics has to be a principle for which elected officials of all stripes can rally.

This was the golden sweet spot where Code Pink, the ACLU, Democrats and Republicans all came together to speak up and demand answers as the filibuster continued. Politics can make for some strange bedfellows.

Conservative commentator and columnist Charles Krauthammer called the filibuster  idea of Senator Paul "a stroke of genius". During a segment on Special Report on Fox News Channel, Krauthammer said:

"Stroke of political genius. He will be remembered. This raises his image, and he’s completely sincere about this. This will be a moment that people will say has launched him as a national figure."

Is it legal within our Constitutional rights for an American president to order the killing of American citizens on American soil solely on the assumption of imminent danger with a drone? That is the question Senator Paul was unable to have definitively answered during a Senate hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder. Paul said that though he asked the question four or five times, an answer was not given.

During the hours of the filibuster, the senators who came to speak and allow Senator Paul a short break from speaking himself told stories that related to standing up for freedom in America, read quotes from well known people, and I think for the first time read tweets of support for the senator's action.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz, speaking on the Senate floor for the first time, read tweets from "the Twitterverse" much like senators of a past century read the phone book to pass the time.


"Liberty does not have a partisan affiliation", said Senator Ted Cruz as he participated in a colloquy with Senator Rand Paul.  "Regardless of party, we should be standing together for liberty."

Cruz recounted his work as Solicitor General in Texas. Cruz was forced to go up against a Republican president to argue an order unconstitutional during his time in that office. He won that case before the Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3.  It was an example of a Republican going up against another Republican - this time the President of the United States - when a question of constitutionality arose. 

Two Cuban American Republican senators related on a personal level to threats to our democracy.  Along the way, Senator Cruz quoted Shakespeare and Senator Marco Rubio quoted hip hop song lyrics and The Godfather movies.  There was a little something for everyone.

It was noteworthy that during the evening hours of the filibuster, President Obama was dining at a tony D.C. restaurant with twelve Republican senators as his guests. Senators Ron Johnson, Corker, Graham, McCain, Ayotte, Coats, Coburn, Burr, Johanns, Toomey, Hoeven and Chambliss were all in that group. Some of these senators came to support the filibuster after that dinner.  Senator Paul, in contrast, quickly wolfed down a candy bar as he spoke.  Not to mention the requirement that he not sit down, much less enjoy a comfort break, the contrast of senators dining in luxury with the president while others were standing up for principle on the senate floor was unavoidable to note.

This filibuster was not about denying John Brennan the job of CIA Director.  No one believes that he will not fill that position.  Senator Paul repeatedly stated that he was ready and willing to proceed to that vote but wanted his question answered first.  When the filibuster ended, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) moved to vote on cloture on the Brennan nomination vote.  That vote will take place Thursday morning when the Senate reconvenes. 

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