The Senate on Wednesday voted to move forward with the confirmation of a controversial judicial nominee who many Republicans say was behind the Obama administration’s justification for targeting American citizens with military drones.

David Barron, previously the acting assistant attorney general in the Obama administration’s Justice Department, advanced towards confirmation in a partisan 52-43, vote over the strong objection of Republicans and some Democrats who believe the assassination of American enemy combatants without trial violates the Constitution.

Reid forced a vote on an unpopular Obama nominee (AP Photo)

Earlier in the day, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Barron had worked against the Constitution. While some Republicans have demanded the administration release a number of other memos he penned which are thought to form the legal framework justifying the controversial killing program, Paul said he opposes Barron regardless of whether they are released because of their content.

“I cannot and will not support a lifetime appointment of someone who believes it is okay to kill an American citizen not involved in combat without a trial,” said Paul, speaking from the Senate floor.

Paul said that while it may be difficult to defend treasonous actions by Americans, the Constitution leaves no choice.

“It is admittedly hard to defend the right to a trial for an American citizen who becomes a traitor, and appears to aid and abet the enemy, but we must,” he said.

As recently as last year, Wednesday’s narrow vote would have been insufficient for advancing Barron toward’s confirmation. New Senate rules, introduced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that are nicknamed the “nuclear option,” now allow Democrats to advance the president’s nominees with a simple rather than 60-vote majority.

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