Consider this Rand Paul’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington moment, and an answer of sorts to filibuster reform. Paul has vowed to continue his speech until Barack Obama himself declares that he has no authority to launch a drone strike on an American citizen on American soil. Paul accused Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill for hypocrisy as well, pointing out that they were ready to accuse George Bush of making himself king and wiping his feet on the Constitution. Where are their voices now, Paul wonders:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has launched a talking filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“I’m here to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination to be director of CIA,” Paul said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “I will speak for as long as it takes.
“I will speak today until the president says, ‘no’ he will not kill you at a café.”
Paul has said he wants more answers from the administration on whether American citizens can be targeted by armed drones inside the United States before he’ll lift his filibuster on Brennan’s nomination. …
“Has America the beautiful become ‘Alice in Wonderland’?” Paul said. “When I asked the president can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer — an unequivocal no.
“But his answer was, ‘I haven’t killed anyone yet and I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.’”
Paul spent a considerable amount of time on the Posse Comitatus Act, pointing out that the government is barred from using military force on American soil unless war or an insurrection is declared. The point, Paul says, is that military and police power are separated from judicial power for a reason, and the reason is due process. Without that separation, the executive will be transformed into a tyrannical power, regardless of whether the executive chooses to exercise that power or not. The answer from Eric Holder that “we probably won’t exercise that power” doesn’t address the issue.
Tangentially, this is also interesting in the context of filibuster reform. The presumption of both sides was that no one was really interested in talking filibusters any longer. Obviously, that’s not the case, and this one might be lengthier than others. Rand Paul is much younger than an average Senator, having just turned 50, and he’s in good shape. Presumably, his stamina won’t come into question for at least several hours, so we may get a very large helping of Paul’s views on everything from the topic at hand to the need for the Washington Redskins to give RGIII more protection on the O-line.
While I’m updating this, Paul just asked whether this power would have been so acceptable to Democrats 40 years ago. What if, Paul wondered, someone had dropped a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda or college students at the time who were raising money for the Viet Cong? Would the same Democrats who are sitting on the sidelines now have protested such tactics at the time? After all, raising money for the enemy is arguably treason, and Paul said he’d have called it that — but those students would have deserved to get their day in court.
Somehow, I doubt that Obama will respond, but perhaps Jay Carney will need to issue a clarification in the next few hours for Reid to get his chamber back. I doubt that Republicans will step in to help stop Paul’s filibuster, as long as he’s talking.
Update (AP): And then there were two.
— Jillian Wheeler (@SenLeePressSec) March 6, 2013
Update (AP): Rubio’s late to the party, but the more buzz his prospective 2016 rival gets for this filibuster, the greater the pressure on him to speak up too. Just across on Twitter:
why is it so hard for POTUS to just say NO,it is not constitutional to kill a citizen who is not an imminent threat with a drone on US soil.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 6, 2013
#RandPaul is asking a legit question of Holder.Why so hard for them to just give straight answer?Almost like they feel it is beneath them.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 6, 2013
Update (Ed): Ted Cruz has just joined in to ask questions of Paul, in what looks like a pretty smart strategy. Paul has specifically stated that he will take questions without relinquishing control of the floor, and both Cruz and Lee are asking oddly lengthy questions. In other words, they’re providing Paul with short opportunities to rest his voice, and to add more ammunition to his rhetorical magazine. Puns very much intended, by the way.
Update (AP): This thing just turned bipartisan:
Heading to the floor to speak on Congressional oversight of executive branch & rules for targeted killings. Watch: http://t.co/Psfwfw7d0d
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 6, 2013
Last week, Eli Lake dubbed Paul and Wyden the odd couple on drones.
Update (AP): Annnnd at 4:19 ET, Rubio finally speaks.
Update (AP): “Let me give you some advice — keep some water nearby.”