Rand Paul maintains opposition to Patriot Act extensions, spars with Sen. Reid

05/25/2011 03:36 PM

Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul continued to protest continuing three provisions in the U.S. Patriot Act that Congress passed in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Paul has opposed the extension of those provisions that give law enforcement the ability to track suspected lone terrorists, conduct roving electronic surveillance and search personal records, such as financial information and library book withdraws, without a judge’s approval.

He has pushed for amendments of the bill and tried to block passage. A majority in the Senate, however, has tried to get around Paul’s filibuster to approve the extension before the end of Thursday when the provisions are set to expire.

The Hill reported on the procedural chess match between Paul and Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid.

Paul took to the floor this afternoon and criticized Senate leaders for the lack of debate and questioned the constitutionality of the Patriot Act:

Paul was joined in his opposition to the provisions by several other senators, including Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Here’s a clip of what Udall said:

But Reid blasted Paul, saying the issue has been up for discussion since last Thursday. And he said delaying passage will “set this program back significantly.”

And he said military and intelligence leaders support the Patriot Act for helping to snare terrorists before they strike. He called out Paul, whom he repeatedly referred to as “the senator from Kentucky” per Senate rules.

“The bottom line is no matter how long it takes to get there, we’re going to have this vote. And the vote will win,” he said. “We will pass the Patriot Act and do everything we can to keep the people safe. It’s up to the Senator from Kentucky whether those national security programs will expire before we get a chance to vote. That expiration date is extremely important, and if he thinks that’s going to be a badge of courage on his side to have held this up for a few hours, he’s made a mistake.”

Paul responded on the floor minutes later to what he called “a scurrilous attack” by Reid.

“I’m somehow to be told that because I believe a judge should sign a warrant that I’m in favor of terrorists having weapons? The absurdity of it. The insult of it,” he said.

“The question is … is our constitution strong enough that we could actually capture terrorists and protect our liberty at the same time?” he asked rhetorically.

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