WASHINGTON—After two months of spirited debate and one day of high political theater, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination to lead the CIA.
John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, was approved on a 63-34 vote Thursday afternoon, despite vehement opposition from some in the Republican Party.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., led the opposition, filibustering the nomination for more than 12 hours Wednesday because of his concern over the Obama administration’s drone program, which Brennan has overseen. Paul’s talking filibuster, a rarity on Capitol Hill, caused his popularity to skyrocket overnight, and social media outlets were still abuzz a day later.
Ultimately Paul’s efforts to halt the nomination fell short, but he did get what he wanted: Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday sent Paul a short letter saying, “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?’ The answer to that question is no.”
Paul won commendation from a wide range of politicians and advocacy groups, including Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union, which praised the freshman senator for his “courageous” actions.
While the final vote to confirm Brennan fell mostly along party lines, Paul was joined by Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont—the last senator to filibuster in 2010—in voting against the nomination.
Brennan spent 25 years with the CIA before retiring in 2005. He will replace acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who has held the post since November when David Petreaus resigned amid a sex scandal.