WASHINGTON – The high-profile Senate filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may have ended more than a week ago, but its message rippled all through the Conservative Political Action Conference where the senator spoke today.
"I … came with a message for the president that is loud and clear and that doesn't mince words," he said. "No one person gets to decide the law. No one person gets to decide your innocence or guilt.
"My question was about whether presidential power has limits," he said.
He was referring to his nearly 13-hour filibuster challenging the constitutionality of the Obama administration's apparent willingness to carry out a drone strike on an American citizen under certain circumstances.
He declared "victory" the next day when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent him a letter assuring him that the president cannot use drones to kill American non-combatants on U.S. soil.
"Lincoln wrote nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man give him power," Paul said, noting that Obama already has signed a law allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens.
Paul said the oath of office requires an officeholder to affirm he will preserve and protect the Constitution all the time, not only "when it's convenient."
He also noted that Obama has said he has "no intention" of detaining Americans without trial.
"Mr. President, good intentions are not enough. We want to know: Will or won't you defend the Constitution?"
He warned that America's freedom is at stake.
"If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what exactly is it that our brave young men and women are fighting for?" he said.
"The filibuster was about drones. But also much more. Do have a Bill of Rights? Do we have a Constitution? And will we defend it?" he asked.
Signs urging "Stand with Rand" were sprinkled throughout the conference. As Paul appeared on the stage to speak, audience members across the entire ballroom rose to their feet with "Stand With Rand" supporters. Paul exuded passion throughout his speech.
Paul said what makes the U.S. "exceptional" is the separation of the powers of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, which helps secure freedom.
Paul also attacked Obama for canceling White House tours because of the sequester cuts while sending $250 million in economic aid to Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Egypt.
The senator then called for an end to foreign aid to nations hostile to the United States.
WND spoke with Paul supporter Sarah Harvard, who describes herself as a conservative libertarian. She was distributing "Stand with Rand" signs and called Paul "the future of the GOP."
Harvard described him as a man who "does not bluff" and "is very courageous, because he stands alone."
After the filibuster produced a response from the Obama administration, Paul said, "This is a major victory for American civil liberties and ensures the protection of our basic constitutional rights."
"We have separation of powers to protect our rights. That's what government was organized to do, and that's what the Constitution was put in place to do," he said.
In the letter to Paul, Holder said, "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no."
Holder earlier told Paul in response to a question from the senator that the U.S. never has carried out a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil, and it would be "unlikely."
However, Holder also said he could not rule it out entirely.
"It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," Holder's letter said.
The attorney general said Obama "has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial."
Paul said Holder's ultimate response was exactly what he wanted during his nearly 13 hours speaking on the U.S. Senate floor.
Paul, in a Fox News interview, said the response is evidence that the White House will eventually capitulate "under duress and public humiliation."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., praised Paul. In an interview with WND, he said the Kentucky senator has raised his profile further.
"I think he was already recognized as a strong leader in the pro-liberty movement," said Lee. But thanks to his filibuster, he has now "solidified his role."
The full speech: