Dems Have a Hard Time Explaining Why They Skipped Rand Pauls Drone Filibuster

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. is questioned by reporters in an elevator as he leaves a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. Call it Rand’s Stand: a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor that is thrusting a tea party hero back into the national spotlight. Paul’s Wednesday night filibuster of President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director drew comparisons to the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Credit: AP

During Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) nearly 13 hour filibuster Wednesday, actor John Cusack asked: “For God’s sake where are Democrats?” Apparently, they were far to busy dealing with “many, many other issues.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was the only Democrat to join Paul and 14 other Republicans in the filibuster to block John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director and bring national attention to the potential for drone killings of Americans on U.S. soil. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also took the floor, but only to ask questions and mostly defend the U.S. government’s authority to target Americans with drones.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told the Huffington Post that he had “stuff to do and was doing a lot of other things.”

“I don’t know, there’s a lot of debates that I don’t join that I agree,” he said. “I think the question should be answered. I think Paul was generally right on it.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he never considered standing with Paul during the filibuster, but admitted the lack of Democrats was a “good question.”

“I’m working right now on many, many, other issues,” he added.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she didn’t watch any of Paul’s filibuster because there are “certain things that fall into the category of life is too short.” She said she was doing her own “thing.”

“I don’t think that the administration has any intention of using drones in the United States against American citizens or otherwise,” Pelosi said. “So I don’t have that fear. But I do support and have been a fighter for, whoever the president is, the — a Congress being informed and having sufficient oversight over the actions they might take in relationship to the balance between freedom and security.”

“Everyone’s got a lot of priorities and people are busy,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) “But it’s an important debate. I think as we begin … developing kind of a legal architecture around a set of difficult issues, it’s going to be important that we all engage, but right now we need to get a CIA director in place.”

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she’s been satisfied with the administration’s response thus far, though she added that oversight of the drone program remains important.

She justified the lack of Democrats present on the floor by saying that many of them “weren’t in the building,” and that almost all of them were taken aback by Paul’s use of the talking filibuster.

“We all were shocked Republicans were doing a real filibuster instead of a procedural filibuster that has been their standard operating procedure for the last two or three years,” she said.

Some Democrats argued that the concerns over transparency extend beyond drones.

“I think there’s a host of issues here, not just simply issues related to drones but related to overall powers to spy on Americans and to take action without any sort of check,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Attorney General Eric Holder and the White House both responded to Paul’s inquiry on drones Thursday, confirming that the executive branch lacks the authority to conduct a strike on an American noncombatant within the U.S.

Paul said he was pleased with the outcome and added the entire battle was worth it to get the federal government on the record regarding the issue.

This story has been updated.