Prior to Wednesday's filibuster, Reid hoped to have a vote on Brennan’s nomination so that lawmakers could leave town before a forecast snowstorm prevented members from heading home for the weekend. In response, Paul said: “I will speak for as long as it takes."
Paul said he wants Obama to define what standards would be used to justify a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil. Paul pointed to Vietnam War protesters who vocally sympathized with the enemy. He questioned whether sympathizing was justification enough for the warrantless killing.
"There are a lot of questions that are not being asked ... I think there is a difference between sympathizing and taking up arms," Paul said.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) joined Paul and their Senate colleagues in questioning the administration's transparency on the use of armed drones.
As members of the Senate Intelligence panel, Wyden and Rubio approved Brennan's confirmation during Tuesday's committee vote, with Wyden saying Wednesday he planned to approve the nomination when it comes to the full Senate.
Brennan cleared the Senate Intelligence Committee by a vote of 12 to 3, with no Democrats opposing. Despite Paul's efforts to delay the Brennan vote, Reid's office planned to file for cloture by Wednesday night, according to a Senate aide.
However, Senate Democrats would need an additional two days to get through the cloture process if senators objected, possibly pushing a confirmation vote into next week.
Benghazi no longer a Brennan issue: As Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) on-the-floor filibuster stole the spotlight Wednesday, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dropped a potential hold of their own on John Brennan.
The pair had said they wanted their questions on last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, answered before the Brennan nomination went forward.
On Tuesday, they did not say they would filibuster Brennan — McCain made a point of saying that he wasn’t threatening a filibuster — but that they were continuing to press forward to get their questions answered.
They didn’t get everything they wanted, but apparently it was enough, as Graham said Thursday there wouldn’t be a hold over Benghazi.
He said that he would continue to press for the release of FBI interviews with witnesses through the Judiciary Committee, but those weren’t tied to Brennan.
Of course, Graham had also threatened to block Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s confirmation over Benghazi, and Hagel wasn’t in the government at the time.
Graham said that when Brennan’s nomination is up for a vote, he is leaning toward supporting him.
House passes CR with Defense bill: The House passed its bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year Wednesday, which included an appropriations bill for the Pentagon.
The bill providing $518 billion for the base Pentagon budget is key to help the Defense Department deal with its budget issues, military leaders say, as they face $46 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts.
The bill provides an additional $10.4 billion in operations and maintenance funding, which would allow for key ship repairs and training that might not be possible under a continuing resolution.
The bill passed the House in a 267-151 vote, and the Senate looks to do its bill next week.
Senate leaders have accepted the topline number from the House, but they could try to do additional appropriations bills beyond Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
While Pentagon leaders supported the bill, Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee did not. Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and the senior-most Democrats either voted against the bill or did not vote.
In all, 53 Democrats voted for the CR, while 14 Republicans were opposed.
Smith said that he voted "no" because he did not want to lock in spending levels that take sequestration into account.
“While this bill does allow the Department of Defense some discretion in implementing the across-the-board spending cuts through sequestration, it is a missed opportunity to remove these cuts altogether and address our budget in a balanced way."
Hunter slams new drone medal: While the modern-day wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably bear little resemblance to those in Vietnam, Korea and World War II, the actions of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who fought in those wars has not changed.
At least, not to one congressman and retired Marine.
In an editorial published Wednesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) slammed the Pentagon's new combat medal for drone pilots and cyber warriors.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, awarded solely to U.S. service members involved in unmanned aerial drone and cyber warfare operations, falls between the Silver Star and Bronze Star, the third- and fourth-highest U.S. military honors available to American service personnel, and above the Purple Heart.
Hunter acknowledged the merits of the award as a recognition "that the battlefield has changed from what previous generations saw in Vietnam, Korea and World War II."
"Unmanned platforms are a common element in combat operations today, providing ground support and other advantages. Cyber warfare is also a new frontier where American national security is challenged regularly and often out of sight," Hunter wrote.
That said, "it was an error in judgment" by DOD to put the medal on par with the Silver Star and Purple Heart — commendations earned by service personnel serving on the front lines, as opposed to drone pilots and cyber operators who often serve in the rear.
As a former Marine and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, Hunter served during the Battle of Fallujah, which saw some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq war.
The new medal, according to Hunter, dismisses the sacrifices made by those frontline troops by acquiescing to "the Pentagon's unrelenting attempt to redefine the nature of war and the dangers commonplace on the field of battle."
"Ask any surviving Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star or Purple Heart recipient from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan about the risks and dangers of combat. Many if not all are sure to disagree with the Pentagon's assessment," he said.
On Monday, nearly four dozen other House members sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, requesting the new drone medal be degraded within the hierarchy of DOD combat commendations.
The Pentagon has defended the new medal.
"We are not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star — that remains an important award for our combat troops and will remain so," Pentagon press secretary George Little said last month.
In Case You Missed It:
— Corker: Iraq waste ‘appalling’
— CR still kills MEADS despite funding
— Senate confirms Africa, Mideast generals
— Senators furious over sexual assault dismissal
— Lawmakers want to end Selective Service
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