WASHINGTON — A day after launching an unusual talking filibuster, Sen. Rand Paul quickly dropped his objection to a Senate vote on John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA after Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. satisfied his concerns that the president doesn’t have authority to order a lethal drone strike on U.S. soil outside combat.
It took the Kentucky Republican barely two minutes Thursday to declare that the Obama administration had acknowledged and answered the questions he had raised in a nearly 13-hour filibuster that began before noon Wednesday and ended after midnight.
“It has taken a while, but we got an explicit answer,” Paul announced. “I’m pleased that we did, and to me, I think the entire battle was worthwhile.”
The Senate is now holding a pair of votes that should end in Brennan’s confirmation, an outcome that has been delayed for several weeks as lawmakers pushed the administration to provide more information about targeted killings.
Paul’s unusual filibuster revealed a rift among Republicans over national security issues. The divisions emerged in public on the Senate floor Thursday and behind closed doors at the weekly conference lunches.
Paul said he “didn’t really” talk to Sen. John McCain after the Arizona Republican argued on the Senate floor earlier that the filibuster “was not helpful to the American people.” McCain used stronger terms with reporters afterward, saying some of Paul’s comments were “so ridiculous it doesn’t deserve a response.”
“I could care less whether my view is minority or majority. I know what’s right. I’ve been involved in national security for 60 years,” McCain said.
Moments later, Paul told reporters McCain was wrong to be “dismissive of something that involves the discussion of whether the 5th Amendment applies to American citizens.”
“I consider that to be a very important issue,” he said.
A senior Democrat was more complementary, saying bipartisan efforts to press the White House for greater disclosure about its counter-terrorism operations would continue.
“I think you’re going to start seeing the emergence of what I sometimes call around here a checks-and-balances caucus, and there will be a lot of Democrats,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Wyden said that in his conversations with President Obama, the latter indicated “that he feels that there is going to be a need to engage the country in a more extensive way in a debate on these issues.”