Rand Paul threatens to hold up Patriot Act

by
May 26, 2011
By SCOTT WONG & MANU RAJU |  Patriot Act

A bill extending provisions of the Patriot Act that expire this week easily cleared a major hurdle in the Senate on Monday, but it could face delays if Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decides not to hold votes on proposed changes to the legislation.

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a vocal critic of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, threatened Monday to “drag out” the process if Reid fails to hold votes on some of the nine amendments Paul introduced or co-sponsored on Monday. Paul, a libertarian-minded tea-party senator, noted that Reid had promised earlier this year to set aside a week’s worth of debate on the bill and allow votes on amendments.

“We’re not going to get the week, but we’re working on still trying to get a discussion and amendments to the Patriot Act. …” Paul told reporters just off the Senate floor. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

When asked whether he would try to delay the bill if he’s denied votes on his amendments, Paul replied: “I will make them drag it out if we don’t get some votes, because I was promised votes on amendments and we’ll stand firm on that,” adding that he’ll do “whatever it takes.”

However, Paul doesn’t have the votes to block the bill. All he can really do is hold up final passage of the legislation until the end of the week.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said “it remains to be seen” how Senate leaders will handle Paul’s amendments. But she warned against any political maneuvering that would slow down or derail the bill, which grants a four-year extension to key Patriot Act provisions.

“I think it would be a huge mistake,” Feinstein told reporters. If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear.”

Reid spokesman Jon Summers would only say that his boss “is talking to his colleagues on both sides of the aisle about the best way to complete this bill in a timely fashion.”

Monday’s 74-8 cloture vote opens debate on the bill and sets up another procedural vote in the Senate later this week. Sixty votes were needed to proceed to the bill.

Citing personal privacy concerns, five members of the Democratic caucus voted no: Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both of Montana; Mark Begich of Alaska; Jeff Merkley of Oregon; and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. Republican Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Paul also voted no.

The legislation is a result of a deal on extending Patriot Act provisions reached between House and Senate leaders last week. The bill renews three provisions, set to expire on Friday, that authorize court-approved roving wiretaps; give the FBI access to library records and anything else considered relevant to a terrorism investigation; and monitor so-called “lone wolf” terror suspects.

If the measure clears the Senate, it would still need to pass the House before the provisions lapse.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55547.html#ixzz1NS5Pw182

 

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