In a letter sent yesterday to John Brennan, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) writes that in Brennan’s hearing, Paul demanded a clear answer to whether the United States would use a drone strike to kill an American on American soil. The answer he got was that there is “no intention to do so.” He notes the president has used this same dodge.
He then warns:
Do you believe that the President has the authority to order lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without a trial?
I believe the only acceptable answer is no.
Until you directly and clearly answer, I plan to use every procedural option at my disposal to delay your confirmation and bring added scrutiny to this issue and the Administration’s policies on the use of lethal force.
The full letter can be read here.
Whether you agree that the president has the unilateral right to order use of drones overseas, it seems unfathomable that the administration could not give the senator a simple answer to his question on domestic drone use. But in this administration we see again and again that the White House refuses to provide information needed for congressional oversight (the Fast and Furious program, the leaks of national security secrets, the Benghazi fiasco, Chuck Hagel’s speeches and financial information, and Brennan’s understanding of the executive branch’s authority) and for evaluating nominees properly. It is not a problem unique to the Brennan nomination but rather part of a pattern of contempt for a co-equal branch of government.
The serial snubs of the Senate (and the House) are yet another sort of power grab by the administration (in addition to the plethora of unconfirmed czars, for example) with serious implications for the balance of power. Frankly, the only way to extract the information from the administration, whether it is on a matter like Benghazi (what was the president doing that night?) or on the nominees specifically (why did Hagel say he’d produced all his speeches in the last five years when he hadn’t?), is to use the confirmations as leverage. The Senate Republicans should put all these nominees on hold unless and until the administration shows the Senate the deference it deserves.