Washington: He spoke for 13 hours straight, but a Republican senator`s attempt to block confirmation of President Barack Obama`s nominee to lead the CIA over questions about the possible use of unmanned drones against US citizens ended early Thursday.
Senator Rand Paul, a son of former Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul and a possible candidate himself in 2016, started just before noon on Wednesday by demanding that Obama or his attorney general issue a statement assuring that drones would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism suspects who are citizens.
His marathon performance energised his colleagues, who stepped up to support him by reading tweets and Shakespeare. But Paul finally ceded the floor shortly after midnight.
Speaking hours later on the Senate floor, the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said Paul deserves an answer from Attorney General Eric Holder on whether the Obama administration has authority to use lethal force against a suspected terrorist who is a US citizen.
"It simply doesn`t have that right, and the administration should just answer the question," McConnell said. "There is no reason we cannot get this question answered today, and we should get this question answered today. Frankly, it should have been answered a long time ago."
The Obama administration has said it has not conducted such operations inside US borders, nor does it intend to. Paul and backers said that wasn`t good enough. They wanted the White House to rule out the possibility of them happening altogether.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said the Senate would vote to end debate on Brennan on Saturday morning unless lawmakers can reach an agreement to vote earlier.
A confirmation vote on the CIA pick, John Brennan, had been pushed for Wednesday before Paul started speaking. Brennan now serves as Obama`s top counterterrorism adviser in the White House.
Paul said he recognised that he can`t stop Brennan from being confirmed. But he said the nomination was the right vehicle for a debate over the government`s ability to conduct lethal operations against suspected terrorists. Drones have become the centerpiece of the Obama administration`s campaign against al Qaeda suspects.
"No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner," Paul said.
The filibuster, as the rarely used delaying tactic is known, is the latest challenge to Obama`s cabinet picks that need confirmation by the Democrat-controlled chamber. So far, only Senator John Kerry`s nomination for Secretary of State was approved without problem.