Sen. Rand Paul’s ‘filibuster’ that isn’t

May 20, 2015 in News by Slad

Source: Politico 

Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to launch a “filibuster” of a bill to reauthorize a major government surveillance program. One problem: It’s not actually a filibuster.

With key parts of the PATRIOT Act set to expire at the end of the month — and the Senate set to skip town at the end of the week — Paul took to the floor at about 1:15 p.m. to expound on his staunch opposition to government surveillance. The 2016 Republican candidate has made government surveillance a key tenet of his quest for the White House, and threatened last week to filibuster any effort from Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s bill to extend parts of the PATRIOT Act.

But Paul’s ongoing diatribe, however, isn’t a true filibuster, like the one he famously mounted over drone policy in 2013. The Senate is currently working through the 30 hours of debate on a trade bill and is scheduled to vote one hour after the chamber convenes on Thursday — meaning Paul’s time to speak runs out at about midnight tonight. That gives the Kentucky Senator hours to lash out against the National Security Agency, without actually gumming up the legislative works.

“If Sen. Paul delays the vote scheduled for one hour after we convene tomorrow, it’s a filibuster. If not, it’s not,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson tweeted.

Still, all eyes turned to Paul Wednesday afternoon as he defended his staunch opposition to many forms of government spying, saying that many of the programs revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden haven’t helped make the country more secure.

“I’m not even sure you can argue that we are safer, but people will argue they feel safer,” Paul said.

The Kentucky senator’s extended floor speech comes as the Senate is headed down to the wire over whether to extend parts of the PATRIOT Act that are slated to sunset at the end of May. The House last week passed the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would effectively end the government’s massive bulk collection of telephone records, and the bill has significant support in the Senate. Paul, however, says the measure doesn’t do enough to rein in the intelligence community, and could actually give the intelligence community leeway for bulk data collection.

“By trying to reform this, we will actually be granting new power to Section 215 that the court says is not there,” he said.

But Paul used the time not only to express concerns with USA Freedom Act. Rather, Paul’s speech amounts to a de facto campaign speech and in which he lamented the threat to citizens posed by Big Government.

Paul gave his Republican colleagues a heads up during their Wednesday caucus luncheon that he’d be taking the floor. But lawmakers were unclear on his exact goal. Leaving their party lunch, Senate Democrats said the timing of the speech left them with the impression that Paul was filibustering the trade bill. And Republicans were skeptical of what he might achieve.

“Good luck to him,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Burgess Everett and Kate Tummarello contributed to this report.

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