Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesn’t Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)
Posted at 12:39 p.m. on May 21, 2014
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 3:15 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to hold the floor for hours.
The Kentucky Republican told a small cadre of reporters gathered just off the Senate floor following a 31-minute speech contesting the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings of Americans that he didn’t think he could stall confirmation of David J. Barron to be a First Circuit appeals court judge.
“They wouldn’t give me the extensive time today,” Paul said. “I am going to speak probably right before the vote and try to convince some people. I don’t think I’m having much luck though.”
The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to limit debate on Barron’s nomination to a seat on the Boston-based court, 52-43. The Harvard law professor drafted the legal justification for targeted killings while serving in the Department of Justice as the acting acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
Dmocratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana opposed the cloture motion, along with all Republicans present.
News broke late Tuesday that the White House would release the justification.
In the Senate’s post-”nuclear” era, only a simple majority is required to break a filibuster of the nomination. Under a prior agreement, confirmation will occur Thursday, assuming Barron gets the majority vote needed to invoke cloture.
“They’ve killed the filibuster,” Paul said of Senate Democrats. “There’s no real great sort of aim to draw attention to something that there is no possibility of even delaying. So, really this would require courage on the part of some Democrats, and I don’t think they’re evaluating this as if it were a Bush nominee. I think they’re evaluating it from a partisan point of view.
“I think we’ll never know, but that’s a really good guess that somebody wanted the memos released to the public in order to vote for this nominee. I mean, I think you have to realize every bit of this has been pulling teeth,” Paul said.
Sen. Ron Wyden took to the floor after Paul faced an objection to a unanimous consent request to delay Barron’s confirmation until memos in question are publicly released, rather than taking place when the White House has merely offered assurances that it will do so. The Oregon Democrat has been a frequent critic of Obama administration security policies.
“It’s unfortunate that it took Mr. Barron’s nomination for the Justice Department to make these memos public. I will say that it has been frustrating over the past few years to see the Justice Department’s resistance to providing Congress with memos that outline the executive branch’s official understanding of law,” Wyden said.
“I believe that every American has the right to know when their government believes it is allowed to kill them,” Wyden said. “In the case in question, as I’ve said before, I believe that the president’s decision to authorize a military strike in those particular circumstances was legitimate and it was lawful.”
Paul and Wyden seemed to part company on that point, with Paul making a case for the application of due process.
“It is easy to argue for trials for the high school quarterback or the ‘American Idol’ winner. It is hard to argue for trials for traitors and for people who’d wish harm to our fellow Americans. But a mature freedom defends the defenseless, allows trials for the guilty, protects even speech of the most despicable nature,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “Do we have the courage to denounce drone executions as nothing more than sophisticated vigilantism?”
But, Wyden added that “it was not a memo that I would have written. It contains what, in effect, are some analytical leaps that I would not endorse. It jumps to several conclusions and it certainly leaves a number of important questions unanswered. And I’m hopeful that making this memo public will help generate the public pressure that is needed to get those additional questions answered.”