Rand Paul after filibuster: Drone debate "isn't over"

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., during what turned out to be a nearly 13-hour filibuster that ended at 12:39 a.m. ET March 7, 2013. AP Photo/Senate Television

Sen. Rand Paul lit up the political world this week with his epic, 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to be CIA director. The Kentucky Republican objected to the Obama administration's use of targeted drone strikes. Although Brennan was eventually confirmed, Paul wants everyone to know that "this debate isn't over."

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Paul says he took his stand "to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime.

"As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights," he says. "The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.

"Most of my filibuster was off the top of my head and straight from my heart," Paul says.

He thanked the senators and House members who lent assistance and support to his effort, saying, "I was flagging for a while, but these senators kept me going." Paul recalled a particularly powerful moment when Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., brought him "an apple and a thermos full of tea - the same sustenance Jimmy Stewart brought to the Senate floor in the movie 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.'

"That was a moment I will never forget," he says.

"By the end of the night," he says, "I was tired and my voice was cracking ... and finally, at 12:40 a.m., I yielded the floor."

Paul noted Brennan's confirmation less than a day later. But, he promises, "This debate isn't over.

"The Senate has the power to restrain the executive branch - and my filibuster was the beginning of the fight to restore a healthy balance of powers," he says.

After his filibuster, Paul received a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder in which Holder clarified, "No," the president does not have the authority to "use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil."

But Holder's letter, Paul says, was too little, too late: "The administration took too long, and parsed too many words and phrases, to instill confidence in its willingness or ability to protect our liberty.

"I hope my efforts spur a national debate about the limits of executive power," Paul says, adding he was overwhelmed and heartened by the outpouring of support for his filibuster.

Still, he did come away from the experience with one regret. "If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor on Wednesday," Paul jokes, "I would've worn more comfortable shoes."

  • Jake Miller

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