By Susan Page
WASHINGTON - Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told USA TODAY Wednesday that he is prepared to put a "hold" on John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA, and to filibuster it if necessary, until the administration answers his questions about the use of drones in the United States.
Paul said he would do "whatever it takes" to delay Brennan's confirmation until he directly answers whether American citizens legally can be killed by drone strikes within the United States.
The Kentucky Republican accused Brennan of obfuscating on the issue when it was raised at confirmation hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. Rand on Sunday said he wouldn't vote for Brennan until the questions were answered, but he raised the stakes in an interview with "Capital Download," a weekly video series on usatoday.com.
"He was asked a very specific question. . . 'Can you kill an American with a drone in America?' And he refused to answer the question," Paul said. "I find that very, very worrisome (and) we're going to do whatever it takes to get the answer. Can the government, does the government, the president himself, claim the power to unilaterally kill an American in America without a trial?"
Brennan, a CIA veteran, has been the administration's senior counterterrorism official for the past four years. President Obama nominated him to succeed David Petraeus as head of the intelligence agency.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment on Rand's threat to delay the nomination.
Paul, a Tea Party favorite who was elected to the Senate in 2010, also said he was interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. "We're thinking about it," he said. "I do want to be part of the national debate. I want to be part of deciding what the Republican message is and who the Republican leaders are."
He would be up for re-election to the Senate in 2016. Could he run for both? "There probably is a way that could be done, but we haven't finalized any plans," he said.
His father, former Texas congressman Ron Paul, sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.
The senator said the GOP needed a stronger libertarian influence.
"I think the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a permanent minority party if we keep going in the same direction we are going," he said. "We're no longer competitive on the West Coast or in New England, but I think we could be with a little more of a libertarian bent."