TIME Congress

Rand Paul To Grab Spotlight Again With Another Filibuster On Drones

Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during an event at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall in Chicago on April 22, 2014. Andrew Nelles—AP

The Republican senator will aim to draw attention to President Obama's drone policy during debate over the nomination of a former Justice Department official to the federal bench, following up his 13-hour filibuster in 2013 to try to block John Brennan from going to the CIA

Rand Paul returns to the national stage next week to reprise his most famous performance, filibustering a presidential nominee in a fight over the extrajudicial killing of American terrorists.

Paul announced Thursday evening that he would filibuster the nomination of Harvard professor David Barron, to serve on one of the nation’s most powerful courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, because Barron authored the legal justification for drone strikes against Americans as a Justice Department official in President Obama’s first term.

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.

Paul launched himself onto the mainstream national political scene with his first filibuster on this issue in March 2013 in an attempt to block the nomination of former White House counterterrorism official, John Brennan, to head the CIA. In a thirteen-hour disquisition, Paul argued that extrajudicial killings of Americans in the fight against terrorists violates the Bill of Rights.

Paul is targeting Barron now because the Harvard Professor reportedly wrote at least two of the memos laying out the legal justification for the targeting of Americans when Barron headed the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in 2011. The OLC traditionally serves as the executive branch’s last word on questions of what is and isn’t legal.

Paul’s filibuster itself will not block Barron’s confirmation. Senate majority leader Harry Reid changed the rules last year to allow the majority to override a filibuster when debating the president’s nominations to a lower court. Paul would need to swing many Democratic Senators against the nomination to succeed. Demoratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said earlier this week that some of Democratic Senators remain on the fence. The Senate is likely to vote on the nomination next week and Barron’s confirmation is still expected.

Paul nevertheless stands to make some political points with the filibuster, and may also produce further disclosure by the Obama administration of the legal rationale behind the targeting of American terrorists overseas. The Obama administration is engaged in an internal debate over whether to make public the drone memos, and is moving closer to doing so, administration officials have told TIME.

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