The U.S. Senate confirmed James Comey to head the FBI in a 93-1 vote late Monday afternoon.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the lone no vote -- a distinction his father Ron Paul often claimed in the House. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., who have, like Paul, spoken out on government incursions on Americans’ privacy, voted “present.”
The vote took place after Paul lifted his hold on the Comey nomination. In a statement on his website, Paul said he opted to release the hold since the FBI responded Monday to his questions on the domestic use of surveillance drones.
Paul had last written the FBI on July 25 asking about the agency's policy on using drones on American soil.
"The FBI today responded to my questions on domestic use of surveillance drones by saying that they don't necessarily need a warrant to deploy this technology,” he said. “I disagree with this interpretation. However, given the fact that they did respond to my concerns over drone use on U.S. soil, I have decided to release my hold on the pending FBI director nominee."
Stephen Kell, assistant director at the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, told the senator that the FBI does not necessarily need a warrant to deploy the technology.
“It is a shame that such an important and highly qualified nominee to lead the FBI had to wait an unprecedented 38 days to be confirmed, but I am glad that Senators finally came together to ensure that the FBI has a confirmed leader at the helm,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who presided over Comey’s confirmation hearings.
Comey, 52, a former top Justice Department official, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years.
Comey, the Washington Post notes, was at the center of some of fights over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department. In one dramatic episode, while then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was seriously ill, he threatened to resign rather than authorize a secret telephone surveillance program.
He left the Justice Department in 2005 and served as a senior vice president and general counsel at the big military contractor Lockheed Martin until 2010. In June 2010, Comey joined Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut hedge fund with $75 billion in investments for clients including universities and foreign governments.
Comey left the hedge fund in January and has been teaching national security law at Columbia Law School in New York.