Sen. Rand Paul Filibusters To Block Brennan's Nomination

On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky engaged in an old fashioned filibuster. He began it shortly before noon, aimed at blocking the Presidents nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Melissa Block talks to Brian Naylor.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, more on the long speech Carrie mentioned from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's engaged in an old fashioned stand on the floor and talk till you can't filibuster. It began shortly before noon, aimed at blocking the president's nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I've chosen to make a stand on this one and not so much the person, but the principle of this. I have nothing personally against Brennan. I have nothing personal against the president.

BLOCK: NPR's Brian Naylor joins us now here in the studio and Brian, you've been listening to this filibuster. What's Rand Paul up to?

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Melissa, the Senate had hoped to vote today. Senate Democratic leaders had hoped to vote today on Brennan's nomination to head the CIA. But Paul has long threatened to hold up that nomination over what he says is the president's refusal to rule out a drone strike on an American citizen on U.S. soil. And this is a point that Paul has repeatedly returned to in his filibuster.

PAUL: Now, the president has said don't worry because he's not going to kill you with a drone unless it's infeasible to catch you.

BLOCK: Now, Brian we don't see very many of these talking filibusters anymore, the Jimmy Stewart role, right? But there have been other senators joining Paul, a bipartisan effort, it looks like right now.

NAYLOR: Yeah, it's kind of unusual for a number of reasons. Senators often threaten to filibuster or threaten to hold a nomination and essentially demand the Senate to come up with 60 votes to proceed, but it's rare that they actually take to the floor and conduct one of those "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" kinds of filibusters.

And Paul was joined this afternoon by some other conservative Republicans, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, making the same point. Why won't the president rule out using drones against U.S. citizens? But it's not only been Republicans. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon joined in as well.

BLOCK: And any response from the Obama administration?

NAYLOR: Well, the White House has been silent on the filibuster. Attorney General Holder did send a letter to Paul which he said the U.S. has not conducted such an operation, it has no intention of doing so. But Paul says that's not enough. He wants flat out no from Holder, ruling this sort of attack out. The Attorney General sort of gave a no during the judiciary committee hearing earlier today.

BLOCK: Bottom line, Brian, can Rand Paul block the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA?

NAYLOR: No. And he has admitted as much. He's not going to be able to keep up this filibuster forever. Democrats believe they do have 60 votes needed to end the debate and then get to a vote on the Brennan nomination in which they'll approve Brennan. But first, Paul and his allies have got to stop talking.

BLOCK: Okay. Brian, thanks so much.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Brian Naylor.

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