He plans to force the expiration of a surveillance law he’s been railing against for years — but the political risks are enormous.
Hours before the Senate’s PATRIOT Act standoff hit its peak this month, Republican leaders thought they had Rand Paul figured out. He would object, rail on the matter on the Senate floor — and then let at least a temporary extension through.
“I don’t agree with Sen. Paul on this issue, but I think he’s been a constructive guy,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said just before the week-long recess.
A day later with the clock past midnight and the Senate in a standstill largely because of Paul’s objections, Cornyn wasn’t nearly as generous.
“I’m a little surprised,” a perplexed Cornyn said. “Sen. Paul is asking for something that nobody will agree to.”
Paul’s handling of the PATRIOT Act issue has caught many of his GOP colleagues by surprise — and he now plans to drag the fight days past a midnight Sunday deadline, forcing the sweeping surveillance law to expire. Despite repeated cajoling by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the Memorial Day recess, Paul plans to block his fellow Kentuckian’s efforts to expedite debate, he told POLITICO Saturday.
“Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies,” Paul said in a statement. “But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them. In fact, we must not. There has to be another way. We must find it together. So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program.”