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Paul filibusters the old-fashioned way

Editorial

While it has come under fire over the past few years, the filibuster in the U.S. Senate still may be one of the finest examples of freedom of speech in America.

At least that's the case in the way it was used last week.

As the U.S. Senate was preparing to vote on John Brennan as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was recognized to speak, and speak he did -- for nearly 13 hours.

Over the decades, the filibuster has morphed into a more procedural tactic, one in which the actual act of filibustering -- taking the floor and holding it for as long as the senator can speak -- is seldom employed. While the members of the majority party in the Senate often bemoan how the minority party can hold up proceedings by merely threatening a filibuster, senators in both parties are reluctant to tinker with the rule much because they know that, at some point, they will be in the minority party and will want the weapon at their disposal.

Why Paul held up the nomination with his old-fasioned filibuster was a concern on both sides of the aisle -- whether the administration believed itcould use drones to kill American citizens that the administration determined to be enemies of the United States. Paul and others wanted a declaration from the president that it was unconstitutional for drones to target and kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who was not engaged in combat against the United States.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder finally sent Paul a short letter to that effect.

The befuddling thing here is why the administration did not confirm that such drone strikes would be illegal without a senator having to resort to the filibuster.

While Paul voted against Brennan, he ended his filibuster after getting the letter from Holder and Brennan was confimed as CIA director by a 63-34 vote. And the vote had some breaks from party lines, with Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., all liberals, voting against Brennan, while Sens. Marcdo Rubio, R-Fla., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who supported Paul's filibuster, voted to confirm.

The filibuster has its detractors who contend it is an antiquated convention that has no place in modern government, but used as Paul used it, it remains an elegant reminder of a powerful right granted to each of us by the Bill of Rights, one that we too often take for granted.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board

Comments

Trustbuster 1 year, 5 months ago

I am not a big fan of legislative grid lock but the filibuster is to protect the rights of the minority faction in the Senate. Particularly when their views are not popular with fellow senators. Strom Thurmond had the longest filibuster in Senate history.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 5 months ago

We should all be concerned that a few folks can kill you with a drone. Where is this president going and when will he stop? I am scared for this country in a way that is sad and dangerous. Folks need to see past the color of a person's skin. Muslims are slowly taking over the country and thank God I will be gone before it happens completely.

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J.D._Sumner 1 year, 5 months ago

I don't get the big deal. The "few folks who can kill you with a drone," are the same ones who have yet to kill you with a jet or cruise missile attack. The people actually flying the drones and pushing the buttons are trained U.S. service personnel just like the ones flying the jets are working the turrets on the ships that fire the cruise missiles. I'm not aware of one single U.S. fighter jet attack or bomber run on U.S. civilians on U.S. soil. Maybe I'm misguided here, but the drone attacks, so far at least, have targeted known terrorists or their associates with the vast majority of drone usage for reconnaissance. Oh and by the way, there's a difference between Muslims and terrorists just like there was a difference between Timothy McVeigh and Christians.

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USTPC 1 year, 5 months ago

J.D., the bid deal is that the US Attorney General stated that Obama had the authority to authorize an attack on American citizens on US soil using drones and without due process prior to Senator Paul's filibuster. This is in direct violation of the US Constitution.

The fact that the same ones that can kill you with a drone are the same ones that could kill you with a jet or cruise missile attack but they haven't done it yet doesn't mean they do not think they can.

Senator Paul's filibuster forced the Obama administration to acknowledge that they do not have the authority to violate an American citizens constitutional rights to due process and given the Obama administrations obvious anti-constitutional view and agenda it was totally necessary to get them to admit they do not have that authority.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 5 months ago

USTPC: "US Attorney General stated that Obama had the authority to authorize an attack on American citizens on US soil using drones and without due process prior to Senator Paul's filibuster." Please document your source. I cannot confirm your statement. Thank you.

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RedEric 1 year, 5 months ago

The question was asked of Eric Holder to the effect would the government use drones to kill US citizen on US soil w/o due process and Holder would not answer no. Rand Paul's filibuster was to force Holder to give a "no" answer

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whodat 1 year, 5 months ago

That's just what I would expect from a right-wing rag like the Albany Herald: praise for a grand-standing federal employee (albeit a Senator) getting paid to work 239 days per year at an annual salary of $174,000 (from the tax-payers of America). The only reason he didn't waste more taxpayer money was because he had to go to the bathroom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1_9nS...

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USTPC 1 year, 5 months ago

But if it was a Democrat congressman doing a filibuster against a Republican nominee that would not be a waste of tax payer dollars, right?

He earned his money by getting clarification that the Obama administration cannot order a drone attack on a US Citizen on US soil without due process per the constitution. The fact that the question even had to be asked is scary enough, but the fact that to get a simple No from the White House took a filibuster is even scarier.

The Obama administration thinks that the constitution and laws do not apply to them and it is only leaders like Senator Paul that are keeping them semi in check.

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whodat 1 year, 5 months ago

That's just what I would expect from a right-wing rag like the Albany Herald: praise for a grand-standing federal employee (albeit a Senator) getting paid to work 239 days per year at an annual salary of $174,000 (from the tax-payers of America). The only reason he didn't waste more taxpayer money was because he had to go to the bathroom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1_9nS...

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