While many Democrats admitted Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, asked legitimate questions about President Obama’s drone program during yesterday’s historic filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, not many of them showed support on the senate floor. The Democrats, who have painted themselves as the party of civil liberties in recent political debate, left Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, as their party’s sole representative standing behind Paul and 13 other Republicans during the 13-hour filibuster. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-IL, also took to the floor twice in defense of the government’s authority to target American citizens in “extraordinary circumstances.”
Just what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” for the Obama administration was up for debate.
Wyden, who is a longtime critic of the administration’s drone policy, said that he didn’t speak for Democrats, who historically have been critical of drone attacks.
“I thought it was an opportunity to demonstrate that on some of these key issues with respect to balance between liberty and security, there are progressives and conservatives that can find some common ground,” he told reporters.
Most Democrats, however, stayed away from the Kentucky senator’s filibuster.
“I don’t know, there’s a lot of debates I don’t join that I agree — I’ve got stuff to do and was doing a lot of other things,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, told the Huffington Post when asked about his absence.
The Republican National Committee, though, was keen to get the GOP involved. Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, sent out a message for all Republican senators to go the senate floor to support Paul.
While not all Republicans were as ecstatic, Priebus called the filibuster “completely awesome.”
His sentiment seemed to echo through fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell’s camp, as easily as it did social media, where the hashtag “StandWithRand” topped twitter’s trending topics much of the night.
Around midnight, McConnell, R-KY, the Senate Minority Leader, made his way to the senate chamber in time to align himself with his colleague.
The long-serving McConnell, who faces re-election in 2014, praised his fellow Kentuckian on his “tenacity, conviction” and “extraordinary effort.” But what was even more vital was the heavy influence, procedurally, McConnell threw behind Paul, announcing his support of a 60-vote threshold for the Brennan nomination until Paul’s questions were answered.
Though the White House responded to Paul’s concerns and Brennan’s nomination was ulitmately successful, Paul, who is among the names mentioned for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, seemed to re-energize Republicans, with supporters from across the GOP base rallying behind him.
“This is a major victory for American civil liberties and ensures the protection of our basic Constitutional rights,” the senator said, in a statement his office released Thursday. “We have Separation of Powers to protect our rights. That’s what government was organized to do and that’s what the Constitution was put in place to do.”