Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wanted to extend the Patriot Act while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to kill both the Patriot Act and USA Freedom Act. Both Republicans lost as the Senate voted 77-17 to advance the USA Freedom Act.
McConnell tried to ram an extension of the Patriot Act down the Senate’s throat only to have efforts blocked. McConnell resorted to the politics of fear before the votes, “I think it’s worrying for our country. Because the nature of the threat we face is serious, it’s aggressive, it’s sophisticated, it’s geographically dispersed, and it’s not going away. As the L.A. Times recently reported, ‘the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up warnings of potential terrorist attacks on American soil after several years of relative calm,’ and the paper reported that this is occurring in the wake of ‘FBI arrests of at least 30 Americans on terrorism-related charges this year in an array of “lone wolf”‘ plots.’ So these aren’t theoretical threats. They’re with us every day. We have to face up to them.”
Rand Paul tried to rally opposition against the USA Freedom Act, but he too failed miserably and admitted on the Senate floor that the expiration of most of the government’s illegal spying powers will be short lived. The USA Freedom Act is a step forward, because it will mark the first time ever that the Patriot Act has been reformed and powers have been taken away, but the victory is a very small and incremental step forward.
For those who advocate a total repeal of the Patriot Act, Rand Paul’s self-serving antics have done more harm than good. The country will be no closer to repealing the Bush-era stain on civil liberties that it was before Paul tried to use the issue to boost his stagnant 2016 presidential campaign.
Mitch McConnell was humiliated, and Rand Paul nuked any small remaining chance that he had of winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The charge that Paul made the country less safe with his Patriot Act antics will haunt him throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
This was a manufactured crisis that everyone saw coming, and Mitch McConnell did nothing to avoid it. Mitch McConnell tried to prove that he could flex his muscles and govern. Rand Paul is using the Senate as a platform for his presidential campaign.
In the end, the message to voters is clear. Republicans can’t govern without creating a crisis or a circus. McConnell and Paul both lost, and worst of all, most of the government’s spying programs will be back up and running by the middle of the week.