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"People are astonished that President Obama is doing many of the things that President Bush did," Graham said. "I’m not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we’re at war. And to my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war."
Graham, initially a "no" vote against Brennan, told reporters that the confirmation fight had become a referendum on the drone program and he planned to back the president’s nominee.
As Graham spoke on the Senate floor, he stood before a sign that said al-Qaida had killed 2,958 Americans in the United States while drones had killed none.
The tea party-backed Paul, son of former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, first stepped on the national stage in 2010 when he vanquished McConnell’s chosen Senate candidate in a GOP primary in Kentucky. Since then, he’s inherited his father’s libertarian-leaning political network, built over two failed Ron Paul presidential runs. All that has stoked belief inside GOP circles that he may be positioning himself for a future national campaign, possibly as early as 2016.
Paul received a loud, standing ovation in the Senate chamber early Thursday morning when he ended his filibuster, with several House and Senate Republicans applauding his stand. More important for the GOP, the National Republican Senatorial Committee used Paul’s effort for a fundraising appeal and took in donations in the "high five figures."
He became a Twitter sensation.
Graham, who is up for re-election next year, faced criticism from the tea party for attending a dinner with Obama Wednesday night rather than joining Paul in the filibuster. Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said Graham was "clearly on the wrong side of this issue and I think there will be consequences."
On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee had voted 12-3 to approve Brennan’s nomination after the White House broke a lengthy impasse by agreeing to give lawmakers access to top-secret legal opinions justifying the use of lethal drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects overseas.
The Holder letter marked the administration’s third concession in recent days in its attempt to bring the Brennan nomination to a vote.
Earlier this week, the White House gave Republicans documents relating to last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and David Espo contributed to this report.
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