Washington (CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Wednesday to deliver a 31-minute speech in opposition to the judicial nomination of a former Justice Department official, David Barron.
Barron 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.
"I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat," Paul said on the Senate floor.Follow @politicalticker
Senators, however, believe they have the votes needed to break to break the GOP filibuster of the Harvard law professor 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."
The administration is preparing to release one of those memos to the public for the first time, officials said Tuesday, though it won't be made public right away. It has to go through a redaction process that will need to be approved by a judge, according to the administration officials.
Paul, 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.
"It isn't about seeing the Barron memos," Paul said. "It is about what they say. I believe the Barron memos disrespect the Bill of Rights."
The Kentucky Republican, who has loudly opposed this issue in the past, said he's not trying to defend "traitors."
"I can't stand the thought of Americans who consort with and advocate for the enemy. I want to punish Americans who are traitors to their country. But I am also conscious of what these traitors have betrayed," he said.
"These traitors are betraying a country that holds dear the precept that we are innocent until proven guilty," he continued. "Aren't we, in a way, betraying our country's principles when we relinquish the right to a jury trial?"
The potential presidential contender famously carried out a 13-hour filibuster over a similar issue. Last time, he was trying to block the nomination of John Brennan to become director of the CIA.
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the "nuclear option" late last year, making it incredibly difficult for filibusters to occur against certain presidential nominations.
Paul lamented Wednesday that he would not be able to effectively try and block the nomination under the new Senate rules.
"This nomination would not go forward were it not for the elimination of the filibuster," he said.
Paul said he would come back to the floor later Wednesday to propose postponing the vote until after the public has had a chance to read the Barron memo.
It's unlikely Democrats, who have pushed hard for Barron's confirmation, would agree to Paul's request.