Rand Paul Filibuster Leaves Senate Democrats Struggling To Explain Absence

While many Senate Democrats said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised legitimate concerns about the Obama administration’s drone program during his epic filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, most of them were unable to explain why they didn’t join him on the Senate floor.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was the only Democrat to join Paul and 14 other Republicans in a 13-hour filibuster Wednesday. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also took to the floor twice, but mostly to defend the U.S. government’s authority to target American citizens in “extraordinary circumstances.”

“I don’t know, there’s a lot of debates I don’t join that I agree — I’ve got stuff to do and was doing a lot of other things,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told HuffPost when asked about his whereabouts the day before. “I think the question should be answered. I think [Sen.] Paul was generally right on it.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in 2010 launched the most recent old-fashioned “talking” filibuster before Paul’s against the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, said flatly that he never considered joining Paul’s effort — but added that the absence of most Democrats was a “good question.”

“I’m working right now on many, many, other issues,” Sanders said.

“Presumably you go down on the floor because you believe in something,” he added, though he argued that the method Paul used to raise his questions and his timing weren’t “particularly constructive.”

The White House responded to Paul’s concerns Thursday, when Press Secretary Jay Carney read a letter Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Paul at the top of his daily briefing.

“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?’” Carney read. “The answer to that question is no.”

Paul embraced the response, calling it a “victory.”

“Hooray!” he told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after she read him Holder’s letter for the first time on air. “For 13 hours yesterday, we asked him that question. So there is a result and a victory. Under duress, and under public humiliation, the White House will respond and do the right thing.”

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