WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats pushed Wednesday for speedy confirmation of John Brennan's nomination to be CIA director but ran into a snag after a Republican senator began a lengthy speech over the legality of potential drone strikes on U.S. soil.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was attempting to get a Senate confirmation vote before the end of the day so senators could make travel arrangements due to inclement weather in Washington.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stalled the chamber as he took to the Senate floor to complain over what he said was President Barack Obama's failure to adequately answer questions about the legality of conducting lethal drone strikes against targets inside the United States. The Obama administration has said it does not intend to conduct such strikes.
"No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty of a crime by a court," Paul said. "How can you kill someone without going to a judge, or a jury?"
Brennan's nomination won approval Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee after the White House broke a lengthy impasse by agreeing to give lawmakers access to top-secret legal opinions justifying the use of lethal drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects overseas.
Brennan has told the intelligence committee that the Obama administration has not carried out drone strikes on U.S. soil and has no intention of doing so. But Paul has previously said that answer is insufficient because the issue is not whether the federal government intends to hit terror targets with drones in the U.S., but whether it believes it has the authority to do so.
The committee cleared Brennan's nomination by a vote of 12-3, with four Republicans on the committee siding with the eight Democrats. If confirmed, Brennan would replace Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.