Paul's campaign questions McConnell's role in Patriot Act debate as Paul's amendements fail

05/26/2011 04:51 PM

After public and private wrangling that pitted Kentucky Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell against each other, the Senate renewed the Patriot Act for four more years.

Paul had held up a vote on the extension because he insisted that senators vote on at least two of his amendments. One required judges to sign off of law enforcement reviews of gun purchase records and the other required banks and other financial entities to release information to law enforcement only when formally requested.

At one point Thursday, Paul’s campaign contacted supporters through his 2010 campaign email list urging them to contact McConnell, who is the Senate Republican leader, and blaming McConnell for helping to block Paul’s amendments.

“Word is that the GOP leadership is holding up Senator Paul’s amendment to protect law-abiding gun owners from the PATRIOT Act,” the message said. “As if that wasn’t bad enough, we are also hearing that GOP leadership is lobbying other Republicans to oppose the amendment!”

The email went on to ask supporters to contact McConnell and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Both of Paul’s amendments overwhelmingly failed Thursday afternoon. But just voting on them paved the way for the Senate to move past the one-man blockade Paul had put up. And the Senate approved the extension of the Patriot Act before its provisions expired at midnight.

Paul had railed against Senate leaders for the last several days. He accused them of wanting to quash debate and not letting his amendments come to the floor for a vote.

Paul has questioned the constitutionality of the Patriot Act for granting certain flexibility to law enforcement to check personal records of suspected terrorists and impose wiretaps on them.

This morning, McConnell used part of his floor speech to underscore how important he said renewing the Patriot Act would be for national security. He didn’t name Paul directly in the speech but he disputed notions that the provisions in the Patriot Act overstepped constitutional bounds.

“I have no doubt the four-year Patriot Act extension that members of both parties agreed to will protect us from future attacks,” McConnell said in his remarks Thursday morning. “Nothing in this extension has ever — ever — been found to be unconstitutional.”

Paul’s amendments eventually came to the floor late Thursday afternoon. The first involving gun records failed 10-85 with five senators not voting. The other nine senators siding with Paul included Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Richard Shelby of Alabama and both Montana Democras Max Baucus and Jon Tester.

The other amendment failed 4-91 and five not voting. Paul, DeMint, Heller and Lee were the four who voted for it.

After the Patriot Act extension passed 72-23 on part of a small business bill, McConnell issued a statement saying the nation is safer with those surveillance methods remaining in place.

“Today’s extension of the Patriot Act means that our intelligence community, military and law enforcement professionals will continue to have the tools they need to safeguard us from future attacks,” McConnell said in a statement. “The invaluable terror-fighting tools under the Patriot Act have kept us safe for nearly a decade, and Americans today should be relieved and reassured to know that these programs will continue.”

The House is expected to give its final approval Thursday night.


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