Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | March 7, 2013

Rand Paul’s Filibuster

Thank you, Rand Paul.

The senator from Kentucky held the floor and spoke, largely without relief or stopping, for a little under 13 hours on Wednesday, March 6.

Luke Johnson at the Huffington Post gave some background:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor Wednesday he intended to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA, citing concerns about President Barack Obama’s policy on civil liberties.

“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said.

Paul, an outspoken libertarian, pointed to what he called the abuses of executive power and civil liberties under Obama’s administration. In particular, he objected to the contents of a letter he received from Attorney General Eric Holder that asserted the U.S. government had the legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on American soil.

Paul elaborated on his concern Wednesday: “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 an 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?”

It appears that the filibuster did lead the Attorney General to send a second, less equivocating letter. So, that’s good. As Ann Althouse says, “Paul flipped it.”

Also, it seems that Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham are upset. They sound like petulant old men. (Senator McCain, Senator Graham, perhaps it is time to think about retirement.)

So, the Administration finally gave the right answer (on this one question, at least). But as Prof. Bainbridge asks, “why was getting it like pulling teeth?”

And why was Rand Paul alone in this filibuster, as Amy Goodman asks in The Guardian.

Where were the Democrats? It seems the Senate Democrats are scrambling to explain why they were not there. Over at the League, Russell Saunders has written “An open letter to my friends, the Senate Democrats”:

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Do you have any idea how goddamn infuriating it is for me to be nodding in agreement with Rand Paul!? And smiling with appreciation at the help he received from Marco Rubio and (God in heaven help me) Ted freaking CRUZ??!? That people whose views on almost any issue you’d care to mention make my eyebrows nearly burst into flames are standing up for a principle that should be universally acclaimed, especially by you?

Why on earth are you not joining him in doing everything in your (quite substantial) power to curb the potential for extra-judicial killings of American citizens? I understand that the President is of your party and usually it’s a “go along, get along” kind of relationship between you all, but have you forgotten that you are also Senators?

That President Obama is now sending pussy-footed letters via his Attorney General giving mealy-mouthed assurances that they have no intention of executing US citizens on American soil using flying death robots (thanks for the phrase, Jason) is not a particular surprise. While it’s disappointing, the executive arrogating powers unto himself is typical. Once he got into the Oval Office, he started thinking like a president and presidents like presidential power.

But perhaps you’ve forgotten eighth grade civics? There’s this “checks and balances” thing? Admittedly, your chums across the aisle have been making a mockery of democracy by turning their parliamentary prerogatives into All Check, All the Time. I share your frustration there. But making iron-clad the proposition that the US government will not execute its citizens without trial should be the kind of things that even the most dunderheaded of you support.

Please do read the whole thing.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Paul.

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