John Brennan was confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in a 63-34 vote by the Senate today.
The nomination of President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser was famously blocked last night in a nearly 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who demanded answers from the administration on domestic use of its drone program.
Attorney General Eric Holder sent a briefly worded response today. Still, Paul voted against Brennan, even though he’d voted to confirm John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.
Sens. Pat Leahy (Vt.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were the non-GOP “no” votes against Brennan, in a kind of post-filibuster way of standing with Rand.
“While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans,” Sanders said. “With regard to the use of drones and other methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, I am not convinced that Mr. Brennan is adequately sensitive to the important balancing act required to make protecting our civil liberties an integral part of ensuring our national security.”
“I have worked with John Brennan, and I respect his record, his experience, and his dedication to public service. But the administration has stonewalled me and the Judiciary Committee for too long on a reasonable request to review the legal justification for the use of drones in the targeted killing of American citizens,” said Leahy.
“I am troubled that so much of the legal justification for these policies remains secret, preventing Congress, let alone the American people, from weighing the trade-offs,” Merkley said.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who at one point threatened to block the nomination over unanswered questions about Benghazi, voted to confirm Brennan.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who joined Paul for part of his filibuster yesterday, also voted for confirmation, asserting that Paul had gotten what he asked for.
“Earlier today, I informed the White House that I would oppose further consideration of John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director until Attorney General Eric Holder answered Senator Rand Paul’s question about whether non-combatant American citizens could be targeted by drones on American soil,” Rubio said in a statement shortly before the vote. “Now that the question has been answered and the President has acknowledged that he does not, in fact, possess such authority, I intend to support cloture on John Brennan’s nomination and will vote to confirm him.”
President Obama praised the “bipartisan confirmation.”
“The Senate has recognized in John the qualities I value so much—his determination to keep America safe, his commitment to working with Congress, his ability to build relationships with foreign partners, and his fidelity to the values that define us as a nation,” Obama said.