The Democratic-led Senate approved a controversial Obama administration nominee to be a U.S. circuit judge, despite strenuous objections from Republicans related to the nominee’s role in justifying drone strikes against American citizens.

The Senate voted 53-45 to confirm David Barron, who authored at least one “drone memo” while serving in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.

Harvard Law Professor David Barron was approved for a judicial post by the Senate on Thursday, despite GOP protests about his authorship of the ‘drone memos.’ (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Just days ago, the Obama administration agreed to release one of Barron’s memos that had been withheld from the Senate. But Republicans led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the issue was not about the release of the memo, but rather the contents of that memo.

In a lengthy floor speech on Wednesday, Paul said no one in the Senate should support a nominee who tries to justify the killing of Americans who are not actively fighting the United States without due process.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the president has the power to kill an American citizen not involved in combat, and without a trial,” Paul said. “Any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such a power to a president is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.”

The Senate’s approval was made possible by the Democratic decision to change Senate confirmation rules late last year. Democrats invoked the “nuclear option,” by which the majority party can advance nominees without any help from the minority.

Before that rule change, 60 votes were needed to advance nominations.

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