Rand Paul Threatens Filibuster Over NSA Spying

The GOP presidential hopeful joins Democrat Ron Wyden in threatening to block a bill reauthorizing the Patriot Act without NSA reforms.

This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Senate Democrats pushed Wednesday for speedy confirmation of John Brennan's nomination to be CIA director but ran into a snag after a Paul began a lengthy speech over the legality of potential drone strikes on U.S. soil. But Paul stalled the chamber to start what he called a filibuster of Brennan's nomination. Paul's remarks were centered on what he said was the Obama administration's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes inside the United States against American citizens. (AP Photo/Senate Television)
National Journal
May 11, 2015, 9:52 a.m.

Sen. Rand Paul is squarely star­ing down con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship over sur­veil­lance re­form.

The Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an said Monday he would fili­buster any at­tempt to reau­thor­ize the sec­tions of the Pat­ri­ot Act that al­low the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency to run its mass data-col­lec­tion pro­grams.

“I’m go­ing to lead the charge in the next couple of weeks as the Pat­ri­ot Act comes for­ward,” Paul told the New Hamp­shire Uni­on Lead­er. “We will be fili­bus­ter­ing. We will be try­ing to stop it. We are not go­ing to let them run over us.”

With the fili­buster threat, Paul placed him­self in dir­ect op­pos­i­tion to Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, who pro­posed reau­thor­iz­ing the Pat­ri­ot Act without any changes. Paul was ini­tially quiet after Mc­Con­nell, his fel­low Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an, floated reau­thor­iz­a­tion last month.

And his threat was the second such de­clar­a­tion in two days: Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ron Wyden of Ore­gon said this week­end that he would fili­buster a straight reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the Pat­ri­ot Act—even if it’s just a short-term ex­ten­sion of the law.

“If they come back with that ef­fort to ba­sic­ally ex­tend this for a short term without ma­jor re­forms like end­ing the col­lec­tion of phone re­cords, I do in­tend to fili­buster,” Wyden told MS­N­BC on Sunday.

A spokes­man for Wyden said Paul’s fili­buster threat makes it “clear there is a grow­ing bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion to stand up to any reau­thor­iz­a­tion of Pat­ri­ot Act Sec­tion 215 that does not end bulk col­lec­tion and make ma­jor re­forms.”

Wyden and Paul, both pri­vacy hawks, are long­time crit­ics of the NSA’s sur­veil­lance pro­grams. Wyden sup­ports the USA Free­dom Act, a pro­posed bill which would end bulk col­lec­tion of U.S. phone re­cords, al­though he says he’d like the le­gis­la­tion to go fur­ther to cur­tail sur­veil­lance.

Paul, however, voted against a ver­sion of that bill last year, be­cause he said it was too weak. He’s in­dic­ated op­pos­i­tion to the bill in this ses­sion, most re­cently in an op-ed in which he sug­ges­ted the ef­fort could “ac­tu­ally gave new au­thor­ity to the Pat­ri­ot Act to col­lect re­cords.”

The House will vote on the USA Free­dom Act on Wed­nes­day, and is ex­pec­ted to pass it eas­ily. The Sen­ate has only 10 le­gis­lat­ive days left be­fore parts of the Pat­ri­ot Act sun­set on June 1.

A sur­veil­lance-themed fili­buster would not be Paul’s first takeover of the Sen­ate floor. In 2013, Paul stood on the Sen­ate floor and spoke for al­most 13 hours dur­ing the nom­in­a­tion of John Bren­nan for CIA dir­ect­or, in re­sponse to the agency’s drone pro­gram.

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