On Wednesday, GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the floor of the Senate for 10 hours and 30 minutes to filibuster the renewal of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The controversial section, which is used by the National Security Agency to justify its bulk collection of Americans’ data, is set to expire at the end of the month.
I've just taken the senate floor to begin a filibuster of the Patriot Act renewal. It's time to end the NSA spying!
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015
Paul held the floor from 1:18 p.m. to 11:49 p.m. on Wednesday. Politico noted that by extending his filibuster to the brink of Thursday, Paul prevented Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from filing cloture on a bill that would extend the Patriot Act.
According to the Washington Times, McConnell had said on Tuesday that he would schedule a vote this week on a rewrite of the Patriot Act, “setting up a final showdown on the NSA’s bulk-data programs and putting pressure on civil liberties advocates to muster the 60 votes needed to end the snooping,” in the hopes that the senators would end up having to accept an extension of the current Patriot Act.
The Hill reported that Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) followed Paul’s speech with a move to adjourn, “meaning the Senate won’t be able to take a procedural vote on either a surveillance reform bill or a ‘clean’ extension of the Patriot Act until at least Saturday.”
Paul began his filibuster by highlighting the un-patriotic nature of the “Patriot” Act:
[pull_quote_center]There comes to a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now. And I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.[/pull_quote_center]
Emphasizing the fact that Congress has not scheduled enough time to debate the constitutionality of the NSA’s massive surveillance program, Paul insisted that further debate should be held on the subject:
[pull_quote_center]At the very least we should debate, we should debate whether or not we are going to relinquish our rights or whether or not we are going to have a full and able debate over whether or not we can live within the constitution or whether or not we have to go around the constitution.[/pull_quote_center]
Paul also highlighted the fact that the Patriot Act was “rushed on the floor” in the aftermath of 9/11, and that even though it was several hundred pages long, “nobody read it,” they just voted on it because they were in fear of another attack.
[pull_quote_center]The president began this program by executive order. He should immediately end it by executive order. For over a year now, he has said the program is illegal, and yet he does nothing.[/pull_quote_center]
Paul, who has been a strong advocate for ending the NSA’s massive surveillance program throughout his presidential campaign, received support on the Senate floor from both Republicans and Democrats.
The Hill noted that seven Democratic Senators came to the Senate floor in support of Paul’s speech, including Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Two Republican Senators, Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), took to the Senate floor to provide Paul with relief, while other Republicans including Sens. Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) supported him from the sidelines.
Amash took to social media to share his bipartisan letter to the Senate, which included signatures from 59 representatives, opposing any reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 20, 2015
More than 10 hours into his speech, Paul received support from another presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). While Cruz said that he and Paul do not “agree entirely” on the issue of NSA surveillance, he also said that Paul is “a voice that this body needs to listen to.”
Paul’s speech received criticism from Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who called Paul’s filibuster against NSA surveillance “irrational,” and “damaging to American security.”
Rand Paul's rant on senate floor vs NSA more irrational than ever – very damaging to American security! Why does anyone listen to him?
— Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 20, 2015
As previously reported, the Department of Justice recently released a memo stating that Congress has until Friday to re-authorize section 215, or the Obama administration will “will begin winding down the program.”
NSA illegal spying and data collection of innocent Americans must end. Thank you all for standing with me. #StandwithRand
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 21, 2015
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