Senators Accuse Rand Paul of ‘Grandstanding,’ Fundraising Over NSA

The presidential hopeful drew some harsh words from his fellow Republicans over the course of a marathon session.

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Dan Berman
May 22, 2015, 10:46 p.m.

Rand Paul may be the most un­pop­u­lar per­son in the United States Sen­ate at the mo­ment, the way his fel­low sen­at­ors are talk­ing.

As the mara­thon ses­sion stretched in­to Sat­urday morn­ing, and sen­at­ors real­ized they still lacked a solu­tion to ad­dress the ex­pir­ing lan­guage of the Pat­ri­ot Act used to al­low the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of call data, some law­makers poin­ted squarely at the Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an—the one who’s eye­ing the White House, not the one who is ma­jor­ity lead­er.

“There’s a new breed in the Sen­ate and we have seen the mani­fest­a­tion of it, of people who are will­ing to, one or two or three, are will­ing to stand up against the will of the ma­jor­ity, said Sen. John Mc­Cain. “Some time ago, the Sen­ate could sit down and try and work things out.”

Mc­Cain, no stranger to pres­id­en­tial polit­ics him­self, noted the suc­cess Paul is hav­ing with his ef­forts.

“I’m sure it’s a great rev­en­ue raiser,” Mc­Cain said. “I’m ser­i­ous. The emails are out now, and they were out in the 11-hour per­form­ance a couple days ago,” he ad­ded, re­fer­ring Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon’s “fili­buster.”

Be­fore the fi­nal votes, Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Dean Heller, a co­spon­sor of the USA Free­dom Act, ad­mit­ted that Paul is step­ping on some nerves.

“It’s caus­ing some frus­tra­tion for some mem­bers,” Heller told re­port­ers. “Sen. Paul is go­ing to do what Sen. Paul wants to do, and every­one lets him do it. Some­times it looks more like pres­id­en­tial polit­ics than any­thing else.

“He has a po­s­i­tion, he has a point,” he ad­ded. “We don’t dis­agree with him, but there are prob­ably oth­er ways he could be ef­fect­ive, or more ef­fect­ive.”

Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn sug­ges­ted the weeklong re­cess would help calm things down. “My hope is in the mean­time, in this fol­low­ing week, after every­body gets a good night’s sleep and is think­ing clearly we can fig­ure out a way for­ward on this,” Cornyn said.

But he also poin­ted a fin­ger at Paul.

“Sen. Paul is ask­ing for something that nobody will agree to, but they were will­ing to give him votes on the amend­ments.”

And Demo­crat­ic Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill wasn’t happy, either, tweet­ing: “Hey #Stand­with­Rand.He’s not fili­bus­ter­ing but us­ing Sen­ate rules to grand­stand. Frus­trat­ing for those of us who ac­tu­ally want to re­form NSA.”

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, a long­time foe of Paul on na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues, could be seen on the floor rolling his eyes at one point as Paul spoke.

Not every­one in the cham­ber in­to the wee hours of the morn­ing was aligned against Paul. Demo­crat­ic Sens. Mar­tin Hein­rich and Ron Wyden joined him in ob­ject­ing to Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s ef­forts to move a short-term ex­ten­sion of the Pat­ri­ot Act. And a pair of sym­path­et­ic House mem­bers, Reps. Thomas Massie and Justin Amash, were on the floor to lend mor­al sup­port.

Paul’s fel­low White House con­tender, Sen. Ted Cruz, offered some qual­i­fied praise for his ac­tions.

“I’m a big fan of Sen. Paul,” Cruz said. “I do not agree with him on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue. I think it is im­port­ant that we both pro­tect the con­sti­tu­tion­al rights of law-abid­ing cit­izens and also main­tain the law-en­force­ment/na­tion­al se­cur­ity tools needed to pre­vent acts of ter­ror­ism. I re­spect his pas­sion for his prin­ciples and cer­tainly will stand to de­fend his rights to seek amend­ments.”

For his part, Paul was fine with how the en­tire ses­sion played out.

“Pat­ri­ot Act fili­buster suc­cess­ful and on­go­ing,” he tweeted Sat­urday morn­ing. “Bulk phone-re­cord col­lec­tion set to ex­pire.”

Contributions by Rachel Roubein, Brendan Sasso, Dustin Volz and Sarah Mimms
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