(CNN) – The judicial nomination of a former Justice Department official, who has drawn the ire of senators on the right and left for legal memos he wrote justifying the killing of an American terrorism suspect overseas with drones, is expected to clear a major hurdle on Wednesday.
Senators are likely to break a filibuster of Harvard Law professor David Barron to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which is based in Boston.
In order to secure at least 51 Democratic votes to overcome the filibuster, the White House took the extraordinary step last week of sending the unredacted Justice Department memos to Capitol Hill where senators from both parties could review them in a classified setting in the basement of the Capitol. Top White House lawyers also met privately with Democratic senators to explain the memos and respond to concerns.
“Once everything was explained,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, said Tuesday. “Most everyone in our caucus is satisfied.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who has spearheaded GOP opposition to Barron, is joined by a handful of Democratic senators and the liberal American Civil Liberties Union in opposing Barron.
At issue are memos Barron wrote while working in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, which gave the legal reasoning for killing Anwar al-Awlaki, a suspected American al Qaeda operative who was killed with CIA drones in September, 2011.
“I’ve read the Barron memos concerning the legal justification for killing an American citizen overseas without a trial or legal representation,” Paul wrote in a Boston Herald opinion piece Tuesday. He said they contain “no valid precedent for the killing of an American citizen not engaged in combat.”
Republican senators also raised doubts the White House provided all the memos Barron had written on the subject.
“David Barron’s nomination underscores the danger of the so-called ‘nuclear option’ Democrats are using to ram through controversial nominees on strict party line votes,” Sen. Ted. Cruz, R-Texas, said recently. “The Obama administration has been extremely resistant in providing information about its drone program, which continues with its refusal to disclose the body of David Barron’s government work.”
Paul plans to speak out against Barron Wednesday on the Senate floor.