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McConnell doesn't want the U.S. to "go dark" over NSA bill, explains split with Paul on issue

05/17/2015 05:25 PM

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell further illustrated the split between himself and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul over government surveillance programs while speaking on a Sunday morning program.

McConnell told ABC’s “This Week” the surveillance program operated by the National Security Administration that bulk collects Americans’ telephone records under the Patriot Act, which is set to expire at the end of the month, is vital to protecting the United States.

“We know the terrorist overseas are trying to recruit people in our country to commit atrocities in our country,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the House version of the bill could essentially force intelligence collection to “go dark” if the surveillance program was shuttered.

“I’m afraid the House-passed bill will be the end of the program and we will not be able to have yet another tool that we need to be able to combat this terrorist threat from overseas,” he said.

Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator, is taking the opposite view of the Senate majority leader.

Paul has made much of his presidential bid about protecting individual freedoms, including an oft-repeated line that “our phone records are none of their damn business.”

When asked about the split amongst the Kentucky delegation, McConnell told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he and Paul “agree on most things” but “we don’t agree on this.”

“We’re just in a different place on this. Reasonable people can differ,” McConnell said.

McConnell would like to see a two-month extension on the program, something Stephanopoulos quipped could lead to a filibuster.

“Well, you know, everybody threatens to filibuster. We’ll see what happens,” McConnell said. “But this is the security of the country we’re talking about here. This is no small matter.”

The Senate plans to vote on the NSA bill after voting on fast-track trade agreements, an issue on which McConnell and President Barack Obama agree.


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