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March 7th, 2013

Rand’s Stand Against Drones Reverberates in Iowa

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) earned widespread praise from across the political spectrum as he stood on the U.S. Senate floor for almost 13 hours, filibustering President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. It became the longest talking filibuster in recent history.

Paul’s opposition stems from the Obama administration’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes against U.S. citizens on American soil. Attorney General Eric Holder failed to do so in a letter to Senator Paul earlier in the week. Paul wants the Obama administration to state whether or not such a strike against a non-combatant is constitutional.

“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” Paul said.  “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul began talking on the U.S. Senate floor at 11:47 am EST Wednesday. He continued to rail against the possibility of drone strikes throughout the day and night. Without yielding the floor, Senator Paul was assisted by a handful of other senators, most notably Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

During his eleventh hour on the floor, at 11:24 pm EST, Paul stated that they had been in contact with the White House throughout the day and night. He said the senate was willing to allow an up or down vote on Brennan’s nomination if the White House would simply answer his question.

Iowa has its own anti-drone legislation that was debated this week at the Capitol. State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo) filed the bill  (SF 276) on February 27. If enacted, it would place a moratorium on the use of drones by state agencies except in the cases of a disaster, when an Amber Alert has been issued and during a search and rescue operation. The bill also bans the use of weaponized drones.

“What happened was I dropped the legislation late,” Senator Sorenson told Wednesday night. “We had a meeting this morning with  (Sen.) Hogg and (Sen.) Taylor. What’s pretty funny was the diverse group that was that was there.”

Sorenson stated that Iowa citizens from all political stripes attended the public meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids). The attendees were very supportive of the legislation.

The Iowa Senate’s funnel deadline to pass bills out of committee is Friday. Due to the lateness of the bill being filed, Senator Sorenson says the legislation will not make it out of the funnel. However, he feels optimistic about its chances during the 2014 legislative session.

“I know Rob Hogg, it really got his attention because of all the emails and phone calls to house from people pushing this bill,” Sorenson said. “So, he decided to have a public forum. He agreed to doing a joint study bill next year coming out of judiciary and on working on something in the interim.”

When spoke with Sorenson Wednesday night, he said he had not been following Rand Paul’s filibuster very closely. However, Sorenson understands why there is bipartisan support for both his bill and Rand Paul’s stance.

“I think there’s a lot of people interested in this right now,” Sorenson said. “We can’t in good conscience allow this to happen. It’s a growing concern. Rob (Hogg) is open to looking at it and that’s a positive. My concern is, kind of like what we saw with the traffic cameras, once that can gets opened it never gets put back in.”

Rep. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) introduced an identical version of the bill in the Iowa House on March 4. Like the senate bill, it will not survive the funnel. Senator Sorenson says there is one more possibility for immediate action in Iowa.

“I think at this point, the governor has the ability to do a moratorium too,” Sorenson said. “That’s something he could do with an executive order. And I would encourage him to do that. “

As for Rand Paul’s filibuster, it lasted almost 13 hours. He finally yielded the floor at 12:39 am EST, joking that as much as he would like to surpass Sen. Strom Thurmond’s record, “Filibustering has its limits”, alluding to the need for a bathroom break. While in previous decades, senators relied on gimmicks to just keep talking, Rand Paul stuck with policy and the issue at hand the entire time. Thurmond held a 24 hour, 18 minute filibuster against a civil rights bill in 1957.

Photo by Dave Davidson

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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