On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rebuked both the White House and the House Republican leadership as a majority of House Democrats joined with 26 insurgent Republicans to defeat the extension of highly controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Because the vote was moved to the floor under suspension rules, the extension was killed because it lacked a 2/3 majority. The House is expected to once again begin debate on the measure as early as today, with the extension expected to pass with a simple majority in favor.
The legislation will then move on to the Senate, which has to pass the three controversial “provisions that would be extended by the bill” which are currently set to expire on February 28. While the PATRIOT Act has had strong bipartisan backing since its inception, it has primarily been Democrats who have pushed to amend the legislation to make it less harmful to civil liberties. Now, one newly-elected prominent GOP senator is breaking with his party and announcing that he will vote against any extension of the bill.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has posted a seven minute long video on his Senate YouTube account announcing that he plans to vote against extending the bill, explaining that his view is that the Founders of the country would have opposed it as well. Citing the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson, Paul said he does not “wish to unchain government from the bindings of the Constitution.” He concluded that he thinks it is about time that “Congress took a serious look at our obligations to stand up for the rights of those we are supposed to represent, rather than casting the politically easy votes”:
PAUL: Jefferson wrote that if we had a government of angels, we would need no Constitution to protect us. But men are not always angels, and I for one do not wish to unchain government from the bindings of the Constitution. If we do not protect the First Amendment we cannot protest the First or Second either. […] I intend to oppose extending the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act in the coming weeks. But more importantly, I want to spark a discussion of who we want to be as a people and as a nation. Are we a nation whose laws that are in place to protect the rights of the people? Or are we willing to give those rights up to more expeditiously capture criminals? […] I think it is about time we in Congress took a serious look at our obligations to stand up for the rights of those we are supposed to represent, rather than casting the politically easy votes.
Earlier this week, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) issued a challenge to newly elected Tea Party Republicans, saying, “The 112th Congress began with a historic reading of the U.S. Constitution. Will anyone subscribe to the First and Fourth Amendments tomorrow when the PATRIOT Act is up for a vote? I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization.” In the House of Representatives, a handful of Tea Party Republicans rose to his challenge. Now, Tea Party “darling” Rand Paul appears to be joining them, affirming that Tea Party values do not always align with those of the Republican leadership.
Ninerfan writes, “Excuse me, everyone, but when a Libertarian displays the part of his philosophy that progressives actually agree with, we should be big enough to give him credit. Rand Paul is absolutely right about this particular issue. The fact that he is wrong about a host of other issues is really irrelevant with respect to this issue.
From my perspective, there is a lot about current libertarian philosophy that is just plain misguided and wrong, but their positions on free speech and civil liberties is absolutely correct. And, I find it refreshing that a conservative is consistent for a change.”