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September 3, 2015

Reid Sets Barron Vote After Meeting With White House Lawyers, Paul Plans Filibuster (Updated)

Updated 5:50 p.m. | The Senate’s set to vote next week on a federal appeals court nominee who played a key role in the Obama administrations’s drone policy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture to break an expected filibuster of the judicial nomination of David J. Barron, whose authorship of the secret memos backing the president’s drone policy have brought controversy.

The move to limit debate came after President Barack Obama’s top lawyers met with Senate Democrats to try to win confirmation for Barron. The Harvard Law professor’s nomination has come under scrutiny from members of both sides of the aisle.

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul issued a statement late Thursday pledging to filibuster the nominee after reviewing secret documents:

I’ve read David Barron’s memos concerning the legal justification for killing an American citizen overseas without a trial or legal representation, and I am not satisfied. While the President forbids me from discussing what is in the memos, I can tell you what is not in the memos.

There is no valid legal precedent to justify the killing of an American citizen not engaged in combat. In fact, one can surmise as much because the legal question at hand has never been adjudicated. Therefore, I shall not only oppose the nomination of David Barron, but will filibuster.

Of course, Republicans have required judicial nominees to go through the debate-limiting process since Reid and the Democrats deployed the “nuclear option,” which resulted in judges being able to win seats on the bench with only Democratic votes.

“We’ll talk about that today among other things,” Reid said at a news conference before the meeting between the White House lawyers and the Senate Democrats.

Both Kathryn Ruemmler, who is leaving her post as White House counsel, and her replacement, W. Neil Eggleston, attended the meeting, the aide said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat, said some of his Democratic colleagues remain undecided on Barron.

“It’s a difficult issue,” said Schumer, who backs Barron. “He’s a brilliant judge who on most issues is in synch with the vast majority of Democrats. So the question is this memo and we are going to the [Senate’s secure briefing room] … to get briefed on all of that. So I think that will be quite determinative.

“People who have read the memos, I have not, say that when you read them it’s far more exculpatory of Barron than the news reports might indicate,” Schumer continued.

Two memos have been made available to senators to read in a secure area in the Capitol.

Paul has contested the continued secrecy surrounding the legal justification for targeted killing of American citizens using drones, calling for public release. Barron had served as acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

Reid had said he hopes to hold a confirmation vote on Barron “soon.” The cloture vote means Barron is likely to win confirmation before Memorial Day recess.

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