Rand's stand against Obama's CIA nominee

Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 00:00

QWhy did Republican Rand Paul “filibuster” a presidential nominee this week?

Why did Republican Rand Paul “filibuster” a presidential nominee in the US Senate this week?

It started at 11.47am on Wednesday and ended at 12.39am on Thursday. Republican senator Rand Paul stood on the floor of the US Senate for 12 hours and 52 minutes using the “filibuster”, the old-fashioned Capitol Hill blocking tactic where the speaker talks and talks (and talks some more), to delay a vote.

The Kentucky senator, a darling of the far-right Tea Party movement in the Republican Party, took to his feet saying, “I will speak until I can speak no longer”, to challenge the nomination of John Brennan, President Obama’s choice to become the next director of the CIA following the resignation of David Petraeus last November.

Strom Thurmond, the legendary South Carolina senator, is said to have prepared for his record filibuster of 24 hours and 18 minutes against civil rights legislation in 1957 with steam baths to dehydrate himself so he wouldn’t need a bathroom break. Paul was not so prepared. In the end, nature called. “I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here,” he said. (Wags on Twitter joked that this was one leak the White House was grateful for). As hour after hour passed, interest in Paul’s big stand grew. By Wednesday evening he had become an internet sensation lighting up the Twitter machine as the subject line “#StandWithRand” trended on the social media website, making the filibuster one of the week’s hottest topics.

The politician used the procedural road-block, the Senate’s first talking filibuster in more than two years and only the second to last more than five hours since 1992, to push into the public spotlight deep cross-party concerns about the administration’s use of unmanned aerial drones to kill suspected terrorists and whether the government might turn against citizens in the US.

Brennan, the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser and the son of Co Roscommon immigrants, had overseen the drone programme whose strikes included the killing of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. Paul stood into action after Attorney General Eric Holder refused to rule out a drone strike in the US. One Washington Post blogger said Paul was “waging droning warfare on drone warfare”.

Despite the political drama and interest generated by Paul’s oratorical stamina, Brennan was confirmed as CIA director in a 63 to 34 vote. The Republican senator did his profile no harm, raising his national standing and making his aspirations to be a presidential candidate in 2016 a little more credible.

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