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Rand Paul speaks on the Senate floor Sunday. (Photo: Reuters)
Rand Paul is claiming victory over the expiration of certain provisions of the Patriot Act as furious fellow Republicans — who wanted an extension of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — say the Kentucky senator is using the contrarian spotlight to raise money for his fledgling presidential campaign.
“I know what this is about — I think it’s very clear — this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise,” Sen. John McCain told reporters late Sunday. “He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.”
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, accused Paul of waging a “campaign of demagoguery and disinformation.”
In a speech on the Senate floor, Paul fired back at his detractors.
“People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake,” Paul said Sunday. “Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”
“It’s like the people who attack us aren’t responsible for attacks on us. Do we blame the police chief for the attack of the Boston bombers? The thing is that there can be attacks even if we use the Constitution, but there have been attacks while collecting your bulk data. So the ones who say, ‘When an attack occurs it’s going to be all your fault,’ are any of them willing to accept the blame? We have bulk collection now. Are any of them willing to accept the blame for the Boston bombing, for the recent shooting in Garland? No, but they’ll be the first to point fingers and say, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s all your fault, we never should have given up on this great program.’”
He added: “I’m completely convinced that we can obey the Constitution, use the Fourth Amendment as intended, spirit and letter of the law, and catch terrorists.”
On Monday, Paul took a victory lap on Fox News.
“We’re winning,” Paul said. “[The Obama Administration] will no longer be able to illegally collect our records all the time … it’s a big victory for privacy.”
Paul accused Patriot Act supporters of fearmongering.
“People do use fear to try to get us give up our liberty,” he said.
Paul also proposed hiring 1,000 new FBI agents to track potential terrorists.
“We’re not spending enough time actually following the potential jihadists,” he said.