Unanimous Consent Request—Executive Calendarby Senator Marco Rubio
Posted on 2013-03-06
RUBIO. Mr. President, let me congratulate the junior Senator from
Texas on a fantastic question. In that question he used Shakespeare
references; he used references to the movie ``Patton.'' I didn't bring
my Shakespeare book, so let me just begin by quoting a modern-day poet.
His name is Wiz Khalifa, called ``Work Hard Play Hard.'' That is how it
If you look at time, I think it is a time when many of our colleagues also expected to be back in the home State playing hard, but we are happy we are still here working hard on this issue. It is actually pretty stunning. If you watch from home you hear the audience of people watching on the news or whatever, what is going on here. I think it is important to explain what exactly is happening here. What is happening is pretty straightforward.
[[Page S1218]] The Senator from Kentucky has asked a question of the administration. It is a pretty straightforward question. Is it constitutional for the Federal Government to kill a noncombatant citizen in the United States? We all have strong feelings about that program. We all have strong feelings about the war on terror. These are all legitimate issues, but this is a very direct question that has been asked.
What would have resolved this hours ago, from my understanding--and if I am incorrect the Senator from Kentucky will correct me in a moment--my understanding is he has offered two ways to bring this to a resolution. One is just a clear, unequivocal statement from the White House that says, of course, it is unconstitutional. That is not going to happen. Unconstitutional. Just a straightforward statement of that magnitude.
I have been watching on television the last few hours. I saw the Senator from Kentucky say they have reached out to the White House. They have been, I believe, unable to get a direct response.
The other is I heard he made a motion to have a resolution heard that made it clear that was the sense of this body. The sense of this body would be that this is unconstitutional. Again, pretty straightforward.
Let's just say there are those among us who believe this is important. I don't know anybody in this body who believes a noncombatant U.S. citizen in the United States who is not doing anything of imminent danger should somehow be killed by the U.S. Government, nor do people at home believe that either. It was the sense of the Senate that this was the case, and in exchange for that vote, of course the vote on Mr. Brennan would move forward, and that has been rejected. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
I actually went to a movie--one of the great American movies, ``The Godfather''--and there was a quote in that movie. I don't have the Patton quote, but I have ``The Godfather'' quote, and this is the best known one, ``I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.'' To me these are straightforward offers they can't refuse. Yet they have been refused. I think that is stunning.
The third thing I wish to say--I want you to imagine what this conversation would be like tonight if the President was George W. Bush and if this issue was about George W. Bush. Just imagine that for a moment now--if he had been asked this direct question and refused to answer--what this Chamber would look like and what the arguments being made would look like tonight. Imagine that for a moment.
That takes me back to another modern day poet by the name of Jay-Z from one of the songs he wrote: It's funny what seven days can change, it was all good just a week ago. I don't know if it was all good a week ago, but I can tell everyone that things have changed.
If the President was George W. Bush and this was the question asked of him and the response was the silence we have gotten, we would have a very different scenario tonight except I actually believe the Senator from Kentucky would make the exact same arguments he is now making on the floor.
I want everyone who is watching to clearly understand--and if I am wrong, the Senator from Kentucky is going to correct me--that what he is asking is a simple, straightforward response or, if we cannot get that, a simple and straightforward response from the Members of this body in a sense of the Senate resolution vote. Both have been rejected.
The last observation I would have tonight is that there have been pretty phenomenal legal analyses on the floor. That reminds me of the most famous quote from ``The Godfather'' that was never actually used in the movie. I don't know how that happened. Maybe they cut it out. Here is the quote: ``A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.'' I don't know how that is relevant to this, but I thought it was a very good quote. I thought I would bring it up because I went to law school. I am a lawyer. I was a land use and zoning attorney, which meant if I wound up in the courtroom, something went horribly wrong with the land use and zoning application.
The point is we have had good arguments on the constitutional issues with regard to this, and I think those are important to discuss. I am glad so much time has been spent on those. It is important for the people at home to fully understand the legal arguments here because I think they are important. They go to the heart of our Constitution. They go to the heart of our civil liberties. They go to the heart of the things that distinguish our Nation.
I think what is stunning to me--clearly the constitutional issue is important--is how simple and straightforward this issue is and how easily it could have been resolved. I don't know how many hours we are into this now--I think it is about 11 hours and 15 minutes--but we cannot get a straightforward answer. The Members of this body deserve that. The Members of this body deserve an answer. It doesn't matter what party you or the President is in. This is an important question that is being asked.
All of this could be over if we get a straightforward answer. I think that is something every Member of this body should care about. It is not a Republican question. It is not a conservative question. It is a constitutional question, a relevant question, and one that should be easy to answer.
They are refusing to answer it for some reason. I don't know if it is because of pride or it is beneath them or they have something else going on or the answer department was shut down. Either way I don't understand how they cannot answer this very straightforward question.
It reminds me of another line from ``The Godfather'' when Michael turns to Fredo and says: Fredo, you are my older brother, and I love you but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. That is kind of what is happening here. As an institution--as the Senate--we have a right to those answers. It doesn't matter who the President is. We have a job to do that we are held responsible for and that we are held accountable.
Thirty years from now, forty years from now, twenty years from now, ten years from now, these sorts of decisions will have ramifications long after we are gone. All of us here will be gone and there will be other people in these chairs. Maybe it will be our children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren who will visit this building, and they will read about the time we served here. If we make mistakes, history will record those mistakes and hold us accountable for those mistakes. If things are happening today that set the groundwork for future administrations--because that is the other thing we need to remember. No matter how anyone feels about the current President, he is not going to be President forever. The precedence he sets could very well guide what future Presidents do.
So the point is, if we are laying the groundwork and making mistakes by not asking certain questions, history will hold us accountable for that and that is all of us. It is not one of us, not five of us, not the Republican part of the Senate but all of us. We have a right to ask these questions and to get these questions answered. That is not being an obstructionist, that is not being partisan, that is being a Senator.
I have only been here 2 years, but I know enough of this process already to know that when the majority changes or when a new President is elected, at some point every single one of us is going to want to have an answer from the administration or some other branch of government and they are going to hold us off. They are going to give us the Heisman and stiff-arm us and not answer the question. I would sure hope at that moment--whether you agree with that person or not--that you would stand and defend their prerogative and right as a representative of their State to get legitimate questions answered in a straightforward way.
As I said earlier today when I came to the floor, this issue is about this institution as much as anything else. It is about the right of every single Member of this body to be able to ask legitimate questions of the administration or other branches of government and to get a straightforward answer.
I guess the question I have for the junior Senator from Kentucky is-- just to clarify my understanding--that this issue could have been brought to a resolution quite a long time ago if the White House had made their feelings well known in a statement. They could [[Page S1219]] just put that out in a 30-second statement, and it would be done. Just come out and say it, that it is unconstitutional to kill U.S. citizens that are noncombatants who are in the United States. That is one route.
The other thing that could have ended this is the unanimous consent motion he made to have this body vote on the sense of the Senate, and that would have brought it to a vote. Is that accurate? Are those the options before us? Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, that is exactly the sequence of things. We have been in contact with the White House throughout the night. We have made several phone calls to the White House. We told them we are willing to allow a vote on the Brennan nomination. All we ask in return is that we get a clear implication of whether they believe they have the authority under the Constitution to target Americans on American soil. I think it is a question that is fair to ask, and we have been willing to let them have the vote at any time either earlier tonight, obviously, as well as in the morning. All we ask in return from the White House is a clarification.