Sen. Rand Paul finally has his answer. “The answer to that question is no.”
That’s what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. wrote to the Kentucky Republican in a Thursday letter answering Paul’s query about whether the president has the authority to kill noncombatant Americans with armed drones in the United States. It was the question he repeatedly raised Wednesday in an epic filibuster of John O. Brennan’s nomination to be director of the CIA.
“Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no,” wrote Holder, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who read a portion of the letter during his daily briefing.
Holder’s letter had the desired effect. Shortly after he received it, Paul told CNN that he would lift his hold and allow a vote on the nomination as soon as leaders wanted to hold one. Not long after that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled a vote for about 3 p.m.
“I’m quite happy with the answer, and I’m disappointed it took a month-and-a-half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer and that’s what I’ve been asking all along,” Paul said on CNN. “This means that if you live in America, your Fifth Amendment isn’t something that’s optional.”
Paul said that if he hadn’t gotten a response, he might have forced the Senate to hold weekend votes on Brennan. Instead, he withdrew all objections to proceeding to votes on Brennan’s confirmation.
“Really, the whole thing is not just to be spiteful to hold up things,” Paul said. “I won’t make people wait ‘til Saturday. If I hadn’t got an answer, I might.”
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.