Democrats Refuse Non-Binding Resolution Limiting Presidential Drones against Non-Combatants, Too

I noted earlier that Eric Holder suggested that a law prohibiting the use of drones against non-combatant Americans in the US would be unconstitutional.

Grassley: Do you believe Congress has the Constitutional authority to pass a law prohibiting the President’s authority to use drone aircraft to use lethal force against Americans on US soil and if not, why not?

Holder: I’m not sure that such a bill would be constitutional. It might run contrary to the Article II powers that the President has.

That’s interesting background for a move Rand Paul tried at roughly hour 8 of his filibuster.

He proposed a non-binding resolution saying precisely what Grassley had laid out 10 hour earlier, voicing the position of the Senate to be opposed to the “use of drones to target Americans on American soil who pose no imminent threat.”

As I understand it, the resolution was independent from the Brennan nomination (so it would not disrupt that, aside from a vote).

But — as just one of two Democrats to show up during this filibuster (Ron Wyden showed up in support during the 3:00 hour) — Dick Durbin showed up to oppose Paul’s unanimous consent to call for that resolution.

Durbin promised his subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold a hearing on drones. Nevertheless, he objected to Paul’s resolution. He suggested more Constitutional review of this simple measure was needed.

A leader of the Democratic party (and the President’s fellow Chicagoan) opposed a non-binding resolution prohibiting the use of drones in the US against non-combatants out of Constitutional concerns.

I’ve got a lot of theories why that might be. A belief this is all about making trouble for another nomination. insistence that nothing limit potential Article II claims.

But I keep thinking about the fact that there’s a wrongful death suit out there, with state secrets as the fallback claim crumbling with the public discussion.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    When I hear “state secrets” and “drones” in the same sentence, I can’t help but think of an old Doonesbury cartoon about the secret bombings in the Vietnam War. Said one of the locals: “Secret bombings? Boy, there wasn’t any secret about them! . . .”

    It’s not that they want the drones kept secret. They *want* people to know about the drones, and thus to fear them.

    What they don’t want is to be held accountable for their actions. Don’t question their use, and don’t even ask about the rules for using them.

    Next thing you know, Queen Elizabeth will be asking “Well if you Yanks want a monarch so much, why did we go through all that unpleasantness back in 1776?”

  2. Joanne says:

    “I’ve got a lot of theories why that might be. A belief this is all about making trouble for another nomination. insistence that nothing limit potential Article II claims.

    But I keep thinking about the fact that there’s a wrongful death suit out there, with state secrets as the fallback claim crumbling with the public discussion.”

    This is tantalizing. When is the next installment?

  3. P J Evans says:

    It’s a lot of fun reading comments on a news site that are wondering why liberals haven’t been complaining about drones. Little do they know…

    And a lot of people are saying that this is one of the very rare times they actually agree with Paul.

  4. hidflect says:

    I wish we could put Rand Paul in a box and mark it “Open only when constitutional liberty issues arise”.

  5. phred says:

    “And more than four hours after beginning Paul was joined by the Democrat Wyden. Though Wyden said he was still supporting Brennan’s appointment”

    -from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/06/rand-paul-filibuster-drones-brennan

    Wyden represents everything I hate about Democrats. On the one hand, I am grateful for all of the effort he has put into attempting to conduct oversight. On the other, when push comes to shove and the votes are counted, he capitulates, turns his back on whatever principles he may possess, and votes away what little power he has. He, and every Democrat with him, make me sick.

    Thank you Senator Paul.

  6. nyeaaewm, kafoom says:

    Wyden knows that if he doesn’t knuckle under when it counts, John Bennett is going to Wellstone him.

  7. P J Evans says:

    @phred:
    One place described him as a ‘libertarian Democrat’. It seems to fit: a Democrat when it suits his purposes.

  8. phred says:

    @P J Evans: LOL. You can’t be serious. It wasn’t exactly like the Democrats were standing with him on this or any other issue. What a ridiculous thing to call him.

    I despair for all of us. How can we call ourselves a democracy, when we are so totally politically incompetent?

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