March 6, 2013
“I will speak today until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’” Mr. Paul said early on in the filibuster, that began at 11:47 and showed no signs of slowing more than four hours later.
Five hours into the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to the floor to try to end it. He asked if Mr. Paul would agree to limit himself to another half-hour of remarks, and then the chamber would vote on the Brennan nomination — which likely has majority support.
Mr. Paul said he would be glad to end his filibuster immediately, but only if the administration would promise not to make Americans in the U.S. the subject of targeted killings.
Mr. Reid said he wasn’t in a position to speak for the administration and stalked off the floor.
“We’re through for the night,” he said, releasing senators who had stuck around thinking they might still vote on the Brennan nomination.
Speaking from his corner desk Mr. Paul, in red tie and gray suit and with a glass of ice water — within reach but rarely touched — spoke about political history and the origins of key constitutional precepts.
He was armed with binders full of information but rarely glanced at them as he rattled off important Supreme Court cases and names of lawyers involved in landmark race-relations lawsuits.
The old-style hold-the-floor filibuster is likely to heighten attention on Mr. Paul, who is thought to be mulling a presidential bid in 2016.
He has staked out a stance as a defender of constitutional rights and has not been shy about demanding votes on his priorities. But the single-handed filibuster is a more dramatic tactic, and he is using it to force attention to his opposition to the U.S. drone program.
Just hours before Mr. Paul began his filibuster, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. testified to a Senate committee that he believed it would be illegal for the government to kill an American who did not pose an imminent threat to security.
But he could not rule out the use of drones on American soil altogether, saying only that he doubted it would happen because it’s easier to capture people here.
The U.S. extrajudicial execution program has come under increasing scrutiny this year after some of the administration’s legal justification for the executions — most often carried out by drone strikes on terrorist targets overseas — leaked to the press.
Members of both parties on Capitol Hill have raised concerns about the program, which started under President George W. Bush and which Mr. Obama has greatly expanded.
Mr. Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr. Obama will deliver a speech in the near future laying out the issues at stake and asking for a public debate on the underlying principles.
Mr. Holder also said, though, that he is not sure Congress could ban the president from using drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.