Demands by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for amendment votes on the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization legislation are threatening to derail the extension.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeking to circumvent Paul’s opposition, used parliamentary tactics Tuesday evening in an effort to save time and pass the extension before some of the law’s provisions expire Friday. But it remains unclear whether the Nevada Democrat will be successful.
In order to meet the deadline, the bill must pass in the Senate and House and be enrolled by Wednesday night, after which it must be flown and delivered to President Barack Obama in Paris for his signature no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT Thursday. Obama is on a trip through Europe.
Paul and Reid could not reach an agreement on amendments Tuesday, leading the freshman Republican to delay a vote on a key procedural motion, which in turn threatened to push the vote on the reauthorization beyond the expiration deadline. Paul spent all day on the Senate floor to prevent a unanimous consent agreement from being reached to move up the procedural vote and the vote on final passage.
In response, Reid maneuvered to skip a procedural step and shorten the debate time until the final vote. However, Paul might still be able to delay passage until after the PATRIOT Act provisions expire by forcing the Senate to run out the clock on debate time.
Paul accused Reid of running “through procedural hoops” and failing to honor a commitment to allowing time for amendments to the extension.
“Sen. Reid denied the Senate the opportunity to debate the constitutionality of its provisions,” Paul said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s events further underscore the U.S. government’s lack of transparency and accountability to the American people.”
A bipartisan majority favors reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, which was enacted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, a small bipartisan group of Senators, including Paul, opposes reauthorization of the legislation in its current form.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.