The US Senate confirmed John Brennan to be CIA director on Thursday after the administration of US President Barack Obama bowed to demands from Republicans blocking the nomination and stated explicitly there are limits on the president’s power to use drones against US terror suspects on US soil.
The vote was 63-34 and came just hours after Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky held the floor past midnight in a filibuster of the nomination to extract an answer from the administration. A filibuster is a parliamentary delaying tactic.
Still, Brennan won some Republican support. Thirteen Republicans voted with 49 Democrats and one independent to give Brennan, who has been Obama’s leading counterterrorism adviser, the top job at the nation’s spy agency. He will replace Michael Morell, the CIA’s deputy director who has been acting director since David Petraeus resigned in November.
The filibuster was just the latest snag to befall Obama’s Cabinet picks seeking Senate confirmation. So far, only Senator John Kerry’s nomination for Secretary of State was approved by the Senate without any hitches.
The confirmation vote came moments after Democrats prevailed in a vote ending the filibuster, 81-16.
In a series of fast-moving events, by Senate standards, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul, who had commanded the floor for nearly 13 hours on Wednesday and into Thursday.
“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 to Paul. “The answer to that question is no.”
That cleared the way.
“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.”