“The number of Americans killed in the United States by drones is zero,” Graham said, flanked by a chart with that figure and the number of Americans killed by al Qaeda operations within the confines of the United States, which is almost 3,000.
McCain and Graham also engaged with Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who sat on the floor for much of Wednesday evening as Paul and an assortment of GOP senators discussed the drone program.
“It was 12 hours ago when I was standing right here ... a lonely voice,” Durbin said. The Illinois Democrat was the only lawmaker speaking in opposition on the floor late Wednesday night.
“It is ludicrous. It is absurd,” Durbin said of the drone strike scenario.
Durbin said he thought Wednesday’s debate in part came down to semantics, noting “Holder could have been more artful in his language,” in response to questions from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Department of Justice.
Cruz’s question about targeted killings was one of the highlights of the hearing, during which Holder indicated that using a drone to strike a U.S. citizen sitting at a cafe wouldn’t constitute “an appropriate use of lethal force.”
Sarah Chacko and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.