Tuesday night, Rand Paul (the freshman senator from Kentucky) gave the Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, calling for cutting corporate taxes in half and slashing trillions in federal spending.
Paul has been very busy. Today, the Washington Times reports that Paul has just put a hold on John Brennan’s nomination as CIA Director over the administration’s use of drones:
Specifically, Mr. Paul insists he wants an answer he has not received — whether drones can be used to assassinate American citizens in the U.S.
“I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil,” said Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican. “My question remains unanswered. I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share.”
Mr. Brennan, formerly a national security adviser to President Obama, has become the face of the White House’s drone program. He faced intense questioning on the subject during Senate hearings last week, and, according to Mr. Paul, dodged the issue of whether the administration could use unmanned aerial vehicles or other means to target Americans believed to be working with terrorist groups while they’re on U.S. soil.
A Justice Department memo, recently leaked to NBC News, makes clear that the administration believes it’s on solid legal footing when targeting American citizens abroad, but it’s unclear whether the White House believes it can strike them in the homeland.
There is some speculation that Paul’s grilling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the events in Benghazi shows an interest in a 2016 Presidential bid. And the Tea Party response may also be an indication he is seeking future grassroots support among independent conservatives.
However, the White House’s drone policies are causing concerns that cross political lines. I sense Paul’s leadership in this matter is going to be an example for other conservatives to follow, and will be appreciated by members of both parties — now and in the future.