John Brennan was confirmed Thursday to head the CIA after a late struggle that had more to do with presidential power to order drone strikes than with the nominee’s credentials to lead the spy agency.
The Senate voted 63-34 to give Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year CIA veteran, the top job at the nation’s spy agency. He will replace Michael Morrell, the acting CIA director since November.
The vote came after the Obama administration finally responded to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s request to specify limits on the president’s authority to order drone strikes against American citizens in the United States.
Sen. Paul declared he was satisfied with the administration’s statement, which said the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.
Brennan’s credentials to head the CIA were scarcely mentioned in a final 24-hour stretch of political and constitutional drama surrounding his nomination.
Instead, Paul’s filibuster attracted widespread attention on Twitter and other social media and encouraged a parade of other Tea Party-backed senators to declare their support. Other Republicans were critical of the Kentucky Republican, harshly so.
Brennan — who is closely tied to the secretive drone program — has long appeared to hold enough votes to win confirmation.
Holder’s letter marked the administration’s third sorta’-concession in recent days in its attempt to bring the matter to a vote.
Earlier this week, responding to demands from lawmakers in both parties, the White House gave members of the Senate intelligence committee access to legal opinions justifying the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects. It also gave Republicans documents relating to last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Sen. Paul, although he voted in favor of cloture, still voted against Brennan’s confirmation. So there you go.
Here’s a breakdown of how the senate voted today:
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Featured image Getty Images. The AP contributed to this report.