Rand Paul Opposes Patriot Act on Senate Floor

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NBC NEWS- Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has begun a filibuster-like speech on the Senate floor to protest the renewal of the Patriot Act, highlighting his opposition to the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of telephone data.

While Paul tweeted that he’s launched “a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal,” his speech is not a true filibuster at this point because it’s not currently delaying consideration of any bill. But the GOP hopeful’s remarks will draw attention to his longtime push for more protection of privacy rights.

“All this gathering up of bulk data records isn’t what we needed,” Paul said on Wednesday of his perspective on how the terrorists behind 9-11 could have been better tracked.

But his long speech could turn into a filibuster after midnight.

Under Senate rules, Paul can speak until noon on Thursday after which he will need to stop so the chamber can start a new legislative day. If Paul speaks past midnight he would technically postpone a key procedural vote on giving the president so-called fast-track” authority to negotiate the sweeping, 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord without the risk of a filibuster in the Senate, or any added amendments in Congress.

The move could also delay Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from starting consideration of the USA Freedom Act, a measure that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records and replace it with a system that would search phone data held by the phone companies themselves on a case-by-case basis.

This would add another legislative day to the calendar.

The ‘filibuster’-like move became bipartisan on Wednesday when, after nearly three hours of speaking, Paul yielded to Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon for a question.

“There is no question it is a very dangerous world,” Wyden said. “But what doesn’t make sense is to be pursuing approaches that don’t make us safer and compromise our liberties.”

Wyden threw questions back and forth to Paul, a technique aimed at giving the main speaker a break. Sen Mike Lee, R-Utah is also expected to join Paul on the floor.

“I guess if he’s going to (filibuster), doing it now as opposed to doing it during the weekend is maybe preferable,” Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican told reporters.

Paul, who early in his career learned the art of the filibuster from McConnell, a fellow Kentucky Republican, used the technique in 2013 to delay a vote on the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. Paul took to the floor to criticize the Obama administration’s use of drones.

He spoke for nearly 13 hours.

He tried another filibuster the next month — this one opposing federal gun control measures — but a vote to end debate scuttled that attempt.

Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act. The legislation passed by a 338-to-88 vote signalling a bipartisan, veto-proof majority.

The measure also has the support of the White House, leaving the Senate in a precarious position.

The House bill is now in the Senate. McConnell, who wants a clean reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, said on Tuesday he will allow a vote on the House-passed measure.

The announcement comes after House Republican leadership publicly called out McConnell to allow a vote on the bill. The House measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate where opposition to the bill stems from concerns it would weaken the government’s ability to thwart terror plots.

The issue of NSA surveillance has also divided the Republican presidential field.

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