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McConnell Shrugs Off Paul's NSA Surveillance Filibuster

The Kentucky senators are at odds on NSA surveillance as Paul contemplates a filibuster. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The split in the Kentucky Senate delegation over the government's surveillance powers was on full display again Sunday on the morning news programs.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC's This Week that while he agrees with his junior Republican colleague Sen. Rand Paul on most topics, the question of authorities for the National Security Agency to collect phone records under the Patriot Act is clearly not one of them.  

But McConnell was reluctant to concede that a two-month extension he proposed late Thursday would be filibustered, despite statements to that effect by Paul and like-minded senators.  

"Well, ya know, everybody threatens to filibuster. We'll see what happens," McConnell said in response to the suggestion that even his two-month proposal could face the procedural hurdle. "This is the security of the country we're talking about here. This is no small matter. We see it on display on almost a weekly basis."  

Paul is scheduled to speak Monday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, but there has been no indication of when he will detail his floor strategy, or if it will include the kind of "talking filibuster" he has used to protest the Obama administration's use of drones for targeting killings.  

McConnell said Sunday he wants time to make sure a bill that overwhelming passed the House (with 338 votes), and has White House backing, doesn't destroy the program.  

That bill to overhaul the NSA authorities includes the elimination of bulk collection by the intelligence agency.  

"The House-passed bill does not require the telephone companies to keep the records. I fear the House-passed bill will basically end the program," McConnell said. "I want to reassure everybody that there are plenty of safeguards in this program. Nobody at the NSA is routinely listening in to your telephone conversations."  

"I don't want us to go dark, in effect, and I'm afraid that the House-passed bill will basically be the end of the program, we'll not be able to have yet another tool that we need to combat this terrorist threat from overseas," said McConnell.  

Paul sounds like no fan of the House-passed bill either, but for a different reason. Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, he highlighted a recent appeals court ruling that found the practice authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act illegal.  

"If the president's obeying the law, he should stop it immediately and we shouldn't be doing this. I don't want to replace it with another system," Paul said."I really think that we could get along with the Constitution just fine. We did for over 200 years.  You can catch terrorists."  

"Judges will grant warrants.  In fact, if you look at the history of our country ... it's not a difficult lift to get a warrant for most activities that you want to be investigated," Paul said on NBC.  

   

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