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Unanimous Consent Request - Executive Calendar

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MORAN. Again, in the absence of the assurance or the statement from the administration--from the President of the United States or his Attorney General--I ask the Senator from Kentucky, is not this the appropriate venue for us to insist upon that answer? Is it not appropriate for this to be the venue on which we, as a U.S. Senate, make clear that it is unconstitutional, in our view, for the death of a U.S. citizen in the United States by military action?

This is the opportune moment because of the pending confirmation of the nomination of the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. So while today's order of business really is an administrative appointment, is this issue not so important that we need to utilize this moment, this time in the Senate to make certain that question is answered in a way that makes clear--not only for today and for the current occupant of the CIA and its administration, but for all future Americans, all future CIAs, all future military leaders--that it is clear that in the United States American citizens cannot be killed without due process of law?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think it is a good point. I think also a point to be made is that one resolution to this impasse would be to have a resolution come forward from the Senate saying exactly that; that our understanding is--and this has been something that Senator Cruz and I have discussed: whether we should limit the President's power by legislation or by resolution, basically saying that repealing an imminent threat is something the President can do, but killing noncombatants is not something that is allowed under the Constitution.

I think the courts would rule that way should the courts ever have to rule on this. But it would be much simpler and more healthy for the country if the President would simply come out and say that.

Mr. MORAN. Perhaps, Mr. President, finally, I would ask the Senator from Kentucky, while this opportunity to discuss this issue on the Senate floor has occurred today, it certainly is an opportunity for the American people to understand a significant basic constitutional right may be at stake. And while the Senator from Kentucky has led this discussion, I would ask him, has he now received, as a result of bringing this attention to this issue, any additional reassurances from the Attorney General or the President of the United States that the administration agrees that there is no constitutional right to end the life of an American citizen using a drone flying over the lands of the United States and attacking a U.S. citizen?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, since we began this today, I have had no communications from the White House or the Attorney General. The only thing we have gotten indirectly was that the Attorney General was before the Judiciary Committee today and that he did seem to backtrack or acknowledge a little bit, under withering cross-examination. He was not very forthcoming in saying what we would like to hear: that they will not kill noncombatants in America. But I think that is still a possibility from them. I think his answers were not inconsistent with that.

But you would think it would be a little bit easier and they would make it easier on everyone, and you would think they would want to reassure the public that they have no intention--not just they have no intention--but that they will not kill Americans.

Mr. MORAN. Again, Mr. President, if I can ask the Senator from Kentucky a question through the Presiding Officer, while there is a significantly important issue before the Senate today--and that is the confirmation of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency--I would ask the Senator from Kentucky, is not the more important issue, the less pedestrian issue, that we face on the Senate floor and in the United States of America one that has been with us throughout our history, one that was with us when the Constitution was written, and one that has been with us every day thereafter; that is, what is the meaning of the words contained in the U.S. Constitution, and what do they mean for everyday citizens, that they know that their own government is constrained by a document created now more than 200 years ago? Is that not the most important question that faces our country and its citizens on a daily, ongoing basis?

Mr. PAUL. Yes, I think American citizens get that. But not only that, I come from a State that has two large military bases. When our soldiers go off--and when I talk to them--they talk of fighting for our Bill of Rights, they talk of fighting for our Constitution. They do not think they are going off to conquer any people. They truly believe and they honestly appraise that they are fighting for our Bill of Rights.

So that is why I see this as somewhat of an insult to our soldiers, to say that and to insinuate somehow that the Bill of Rights is not so important; that our fear is going to guide us away or take us away from something so fundamental and so important.

I think Americans do realize that the protections of having a jury trial are incredibly important and that assessing guilt is not always easy when you are accused of a crime. I think Americans know it is really important to try to get it right when someone is accused of a crime. So I think the American people are with us in wanting to find these answers.

The Senator is right. This is not ultimately about the nomination; this is about a question that is bigger than any individual. It is about something that our country was founded upon; that is, basically, the individual rights.

Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Kentucky for responding to my questions.


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