After an epic filibuster which Democrats finally voted to end, the Senate confirmed John Brennan to be named as CIA director on Thursday.
In the end Brennan won some GOP support. Thirteen Republicans voted with forty nine Democrats and one independent to give Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, the top post at the nation's spy agency.
According to the Washington Examiner, the confirmation came after the Obama administration stated explicitly there are limits on the president's power to use drones against U.S. terror suspects on American soil.
The confirmation vote was 63-34 and came just hours after Republican Senator Rand Paul’s epic 13 hour filibuster of the nomination to extract the answer from the administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly sent a one-paragraph letter to Paul, which read: 'It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" Holder wrote Paul, ‘The answer to that question is no.'
Holder's admission cleared the way for the confirmation.
'We worked very hard on a constitutional question to get an answer from the president,' Paul said after voting against Brennan. 'It may have been a little harder than we wish it had been, but in the end I think it was a good healthy debate for the country to finally get an answer that the Fifth Amendment applies to all Americans.'
Paul's insistence that the Obama administration explain its controversial drone program opened a fault line among Senate Republicans, pitting Paul against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and military hawks like John McCain or Lindsey Graham.
Paul's filibuster reminded the party that unusual coalitions of libertarians and liberals have sided with each other against defense hawks.
McCain angrily claimed that Paul, through his stance on drones, was unnecessarily making Americans fear that their government poses a danger.
'To somehow allege or infer that the president of the United States is going to kill - somebody - who disagrees with the policies is a stretch of imagination which is, frankly, ridiculous,' McCain said.
Senator Graham expressed his incredulity that Republicans would suddenly criticize President Obama on a policy that President George W. Bush previously enforced.
'People are astonished that President Obama is doing many of the things that President Bush did,' Graham said. 'I'm not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we're at war. And to my party, I'm a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we're at war.'
Graham, initially a no vote against Brennan, said that the confirmation fight had become a referendum on the drone program and he planned to back the president's nominee.
But the libertarian leaning tea party-backed Paul, helping him become a Twitter sensation. Graham faced pointed criticism from the tea party for attending a dinner with President Obama on Wednesday night rather than joining Paul in the filibuster.
Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, announced that Graham was 'clearly on the wrong side of this issue and I think there will be consequences.'
In the final vote on Brennan's confirmation, Paul voted no.
In a statement following the vote President Obama applauded Brennan's confirmation, adding that 'the Senate has recognized in John the qualities I value so much - his determination to keep America safe, his commitment to working with Congress, his ability to build relationship.'
'Timely, accurate intelligence is absolutely critical to disrupting terrorist attacks, dismantling al Qaeda and its affiliates, and meeting the broad array of security challenges that we face as a nation. John's leadership, and our dedicated intelligence professionals, will be essential in these efforts,' President Obama said. 'I am deeply grateful to John and his family for their continued service to our nation.'
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