PATRIOT Act on life support after Rand Paul stymies renewal efforts
Liberals, libertarians block short-term reauthorizations, leaving a tiny window of opportunity next week for a deal.
By Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett
5/22/15 10:50 | Updated 5/23/15 3:32 AM EDT
The Senate plunged into chaos Saturday as Republicans found themselves tangled over the PATRIOT Act, Rand Paul repeatedly stymied his leaders, and senators left town with critical national security programs about to lapse.
In a rare early morning Saturday vote, the Senate blocked a popular House bill that would rein in controversial government surveillance programs. The vote was 57-42, and it needed 60 votes to advance. Immediately after that vote, the Senate also rejected a straight 60-day extension of the Bush-era national security law on a 45-54 vote — leaving the Senate with no immediate options to ensure the programs don’t expire before the end of the month.
Paul, the libertarian firebrand and GOP presidential hopeful, pushed the Senate into the wee hours of Saturday to protest the bulk collection of phone records, as weary and recess-hungry senators trudged through a packed to-do list — finishing trade legislation but getting stuck on the PATRIOT Act issues.
“It’s not about making a point, it’s about trying to prevent the bulk collection of data,” Paul told reporters after the Senate floor drama. When asked whether his objections were a fundraising tactic, Paul responded: “I think people don’t question my sincerity.”