Paul chose to rise on the Senate floor in front of a national audience to give Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a real piece of his mind.
"I rise in response to a scurrilous accusation," Paul said. "I've been accused of wanting to allow terrorists to have weapons to attack America. To be attacked of such a belief when I'm here to discuss and debate the constitutionality of the Patriot Act is offensive. I find it personally insulting. And I think it demeans the body. It demeans the Senate body and the people that we can't have an intelligent debate over the constitutionality of this."
You can watch Paul's comments below:
Paul and Reid have been publicly sparring all week over the proposed extension of the anti-terrorism law, first passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Paul, elected with support from the tea party last November, opposes reauthorizing the law in its current form, saying it violates Americans' right to privacy. Paul wanted to add amendments to the reauthorization bill, including one that would bar law enforcement from accessing certain gun records. But Reid has opposed Paul's proposed amendments, as well as other suggested modifications to the law, and insisted that the Senate should not create any lapse in the act's reauthorization.
Reid on Wednesday personally attacked Paul on the floor, with rhetoric that suggested the Kentucky senator's proposals would abet terrorist enemies of the United States.
"When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we will be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot against our country undetected," Reid said, referring to the law's expiration this week. "The senator from Kentucky is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them."
"We all remember the tragic Fort Hood shootings less than two years ago. Radicalized American terrorists bought guns and used them to kill 13 civilians," Reid said. "It is hard to imagine why the senator would want to hold up the Patriot Act for a misguided amendment that would make American less safe."
Paul was not fighting alone. He had support from a couple of Democrats who also have argued for more oversight of the act, which permits law enforcement the use of roving wiretaps, access to library records and other controversial expansion of policing powers in the struggle against terrorism.
In the end, the majority leader won the first battle by employing procedural maneuvers to end debate. The Senate voted 79-18 Thursday morning to end cloture, which allows the Senate to move forward with an up or down vote on the measure. But Paul said he may still win a deal that would permit votes on some of his amendments.
UPDATED 11:50am EST: Story updated to include Thursday morning's Senate cloture vote.
UPDATED 12:20pm EST: Story updated with news of potential deal on amendments.
(Photo of Paul: James Crisp/AP)
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