UPDATE: After reaching an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Rand Paul was able to bring two of his amendments to the floor for limited debate before a vote to table was taken, which is expected to kill both offerings. A vote on extending the Patriot Act will follow.
Standing alone, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is stretching his Libertarian muscle, and is singlehandedly keeping the extension of three key elements of the Patriot Act from being renewed before they expire at midnight, tonight. The provisions that await a vote in the US Senate are known, loosely, as “lone wolf,” “business records” and “roving wiretaps.”
Paul is using a “procedural” maneuver to extend the debate on the bill, possibly until well past the sections of the Act sunset on Friday. Despite an overwhelming Senate vote, 79-18, to move toward a vote later today, Paul’s refusal to accede to unanimous consent could prolong debate until 7:00am tomorrow.
One of the last of his amendment to the bill which he has, so far, refused to withdraw, is to exempt gun sales from Patriot Act oversight, based, of course, on his explanation that to allow such access would violate the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
But although Rand Paul is the last one standing, he does not have the corner on objections to renewing the provisions. Just this morning, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) worked out a deal to withdraw their amendment to ask for more transparency into how the federal government’s intelligence community officially interprets all the provisions of the controversial legislation, in exchange for the opportunity to hold hearings on the matter later in the year.
In part, the Wyden-Udall amendment asserts:
“United States Government officials should not secretly reinterpret public laws and statutes in a manner that is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of these laws, and should not describe the execution of these laws in a way that misinforms or misleads the public.”
In a floor speech, Thursday, Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “The American people will be surprised at how the Patriot Act is being interpreted. People have a right to know what a law says and what the government thinks the law means.” There now exists, he claims, a difference between “what the law says and what the government secretly believes it says.”
In floor speech on Tuesday, Udall characterized his concern that in extending the three provisions “Congress is granting powers to the executive branch that lead to abuse, and frankly shield the Executive Branch from accountability.”
“If people knew what was in the bill they would be outraged,” he added Thursday, saying that these provisions are “ripe for abuse.”