Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work Wednesday.
Unlike last year, when he mounted an impromptu filibuster on a nomination over drone policy. “We had no plan and I had the wrong shoes on, my feet were hurting the whole day,” the senator said back then. On Wednesday, Paul came to the Capitol prepared in case he does end up holding the Senate floor for hours to voice concerns related to drones.
The Kentucky Republican’s contention this time: the nomination of David Barron to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. Barron, a former Justice Department official, helped write the legal justification for the use of drones against American extremist Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen in 2011.
But Paul hasn’t decided yet whether he’s going to stand on the Senate floor for hours on end in order to delay Barron’s nomination. And that’s because he can’t actually stop the nomination this time around. Last year, Paul talked for 13 hours to delay Democratic leadership from moving ahead with the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA, insisting that the Obama administration weigh in on whether the U.S. can use a drone to kill an American citizen on American soil. Paul received this letter from Attorney General Eric Holder in response.
But this time around, the legislative clock has already been set in motion. After an afternoon procedural vote, Paul can talk for 30 hours if he’d like. But once that time expires, the confirmation vote will be held, no matter what. It’d be nothing more than a talk-a-thon, a la Ted Cruz’s 21-hour anti-Obamacare rant.
Paul conceded to reporters Tuesday that he “can’t do anything” to stop Barron’s nomination.
“There’s no real great sort of aim to draw attention to something that there is no real possibility of delaying, so really this would require courage on the part of some Democrats,” Paul said. “And I don’t think they’re evaluating it as if this were a Bush nominee. I think they’re evaluating it from a partisan point of view.”
These days, the Senate can confirm judicial nominees with just a simple majority of 51 votes. Last year, 60 votes were required.
Senators have had more than a week to review in a secure room the memos Barron penned. Some liberals had also expressed concern with the Barron nomination and insisted that they should also be released to the public, such as Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
But on the eve of Wednesday’s procedural vote to move the Barron nomination ahead through the Senate, the administration signaled that it would release those memos to the public.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voiced confidence Tuesday that the Barron nomination would get sufficient votes to pass. But the administration’s decision to declassify the memos certainly does help rally more liberal support. For instance, Udall said that development means he’ll now vote for Barron.
The administration’s surprise move isn’t enough for Paul, however. He wants the Barron nomination delayed until the public actually sees the memos and has time to review them. And it’s unclear when those documents will be released, since it’ll take time to allow for redaction requests and a court to review such changes.
“I would say we had some victory today. I think if I had not made a stink on this, I don’t think [they] would release it and/or maybe some Democrats quietly agreeing to vote for it if the public is to see it,” Paul said. “But really, public debate in order to stop something or in order to better elucidate an issue takes a while. So it’d be nice if we now had three weeks for the public to discuss and debate these memos, and to really come to grips to what we’re agreeing to, and we’re not going to have that.”