Rand Paul Didn’t Kill the Patriot Act

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I was down with a stomach bug this weekend, so I didn’t follow events in the Senate as closely as I usually would have. But Rand Paul sure seems to be getting a lot more credit than he deserves for how things went down. As near as I can tell:

  • Mitch McConnell just flat screwed up. He figured he could panic everyone into extending the Patriot Act by waiting until Sunday to reconvene the Senate, and he figured wrong.
  • Rand Paul did indeed delay things by refusing unanimous consent to take up a compromise bill.
  • But events went the way they did because a majority of the Senate opposed McConnell and wanted a compromise bill, not because of anything Rand Paul did.
  • The upshot of Paul’s actions is that the compromise bill has to wait until Tuesday for a vote, which means the Patriot Act will be expired for a couple of days. This is not really a big deal in anything other than symbolic terms. The compromise bill is going to be passed one way or another, and that would have been the case regardless of anything Paul did.

Am I missing something big here? I don’t begrudge Paul getting some good press for what he did. Politics is theater, and Paul has worked hard to make this a front-page issue. Still, there just wasn’t a majority in favor of extending the Patriot Act, and that’s what made the difference.

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