Washington (CNN)-In a rare public display of political and personal acrimony, freshman Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky squared off Wednesday with the powerful Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Tempers flared on the Senate floor over how many amendments Paul could offer to a measure extending the main anti-terrorism surveillance law enacted after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Key provisions of that law – the Patriot Act - are due to expire Friday, and the dispute between the two senators threatens to cause a brief lapse of the law. If that happens "it could have dire consequences for out national security," warned Reid, D-Nevada.
"The national security of the United States is at stake, and the junior senator from Kentucky is complaining that he has not been able to offer amendments," said Reid, who supports extending the Patriot Act provisions.
"When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected," Reid added.
A furious Paul raced to the floor to respond to what he called a "scurrilous accusation."
"I've been accused of wanting to allow terrorists to have weapons to attack America," said Paul, a leading figure in the conservative Tea Party movement. "To be attacked of such a belief when I'm here to discuss and debate the constitutionality of the Patriot Act is offensive and I find it personally insulting."
The disagreement focuses on how many amendments to the bill Paul is allowed to offer, in particular, one aimed at preventing warrantless access to some gun records.
"They are petrified to vote on issues of guns because they know that a lot of people in America favor the Second Amendment to own guns and want to protect it," Paul said, adding that he wanted to prevent the warrantless access to some gun records because "we don't want our records to be sifted through by a government without judicial review."
Reid accused Paul of "fighting for an amendment to protect the right – not of average citizens, but of terrorists – to cover up their gun purchases." Reid then invoked the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, Texas and suggested Paul's amendment would prevent law enforcement from tracking the weapons purchases of that gunman.
"It's hard to imagine why the senator from Kentucky would want to hold up the Patriot Act for a misguided amendment that would make America less safe," Reid said.
Republicans defended Paul and blamed Reid, who had promised a full week's debate and an open amendment process but pulled back on both after time ran short.
In turn, Democrats blamed Paul for stalling the process and not agreeing to a reasonable number of amendments.
Even in a town known for sharp political jousting, it was unusual to see such public and harsh attacks on the Senate floor. That it involved one of the most powerful establishment senators against an anti-establishment newcomer made for a fascinating political moment.
What an absolute load of BULL! We have our boarders WIDE open for anyone and everyone to come across, including any so called terrorist.
Secondly, this is a load of BULL because more and more people are waking up to the fact that 911 was an inside job to make ready many of the things including the patriot act along with invading Afgan and Iraq.
This is nothing more than a total psyops operation by the U.S. government, and I hesitate to call it a government anymore, it's an international criminal regime.
They are despicable, depraved, vile, filthy, abominable beasts.
Because of extremists like Rand Paul and the GOP, we are not even allowed prevent terrorists from buying guns in the U.S.A.! We are not even allowed to have a “No Buy” list to prevent terrorists from buying guns in our own stores! That’s crazy! We are trying to prevent terrorist from getting their hands on our guns – not trying to take away any American’s right to bear arms. As a retired soldier, who put the security of this nation first for 20 years, I find Paul’s argument unacceptable and dangerous to our safety and security. Will take another 9/11 or Oklahoma City Bombing to get the gun nuts to realize that they have gone too far?
The idea that this is all the faults of the Democrats for not getting to the floor of the Senate is laughable. I believe that the GOP could have done a better job of getting this piece of legislation written better.
Thank goodness for a new freshman senator who is willing to defend liberty from those neo-republicats who like to have it written down that they can spy on whoever they want. How would they like it if we listened to all their personal phone calls and spied on them daily? BTW, I am not saying the Patriot Act is used to spy on all Americans; however, it IS unconstitutional.
Dump the PATRIOT act.
So Mr. Paul, it is perfectly fine for police to break into a family house without a search warrant because they smell some pot. But to look at gunholder records you want to require a search warrant. I think you have your priorities misplaced.
It's not time to extend but to end the patriot act which has done so much damage to the average American. Stop this foolishness and end this horrable bill.
Young dumb congressmen..... you are being used to scare the United States into giving up liberty, and allowing the terrorists to change us.
Rand Paul–the logical extension of libertarianism, bongs and all.
Paul is obviously a gun nut. Reid is sounding like Bush and the Repubs during their 8 year reign of terror. Every little thing is sound the alarm, the terrorists are coming. Reid could win an award in drama queen.
The Republican just keep getting dumber all the time. And Rand Paul Is a Tea Party IDIOT.
Don't be bullied Mr. Paul.
I'm a liberal Democrat but I agree with Senator Paul. Shame on you Senator Reid for using Bush tactics to try to end debate. We had to endure the scary terrorist meme and false accusations that dissent supported terrorists. We don't need a repeat of these tactics coming from the Democrats.
Rand Paul is just a little gnat of a person.
No surprise here. Reid's fear mongering and race baiting is legendary.
Gotta go with Rand Paul on this one...
…establishment senator against an anti-establishment newcomer…
Please, this is great! If something happens, it is the President that gets blamed by the GOP/TP. (Well, he gets blamed all the time never mind what happens or not!) When it comes to saying “NO, HELL NO!” it is the GOP/TP first in line. One can only wonder what these people have on their minds… One could get the impression that they do not only have little concern what their talk of “Second Amendment” and “crosshair aiming” does; but that they secretly hope some wacko will make “the President fail”....Disgusting!
Oooohhh this guy Paul is gonna get squashed like a bug! But behavior expected from a Tea Bagger. I happen to believe he's right but Reid has waaaaay too much clout to let this kind of insult to his dignity go.
Rand Paul, named after a major hypocrite who denounced government help , the new deal and yet collected social security and medicare. Interesting role model to name your son after Ron.
And now we see what happens when tea party candidates do when they don't get their way. They whine.
Rand Paul is an embarassment. This is a guy who will personally attack anyone and then calls any questioning of his own record (whether it be building a fortune on Medicare payments and then trying to gut the program or trying to appease so-called "libertarians") a "personal attack."
We need adults in the Senate, not petulant children like Rand Paul.
What a terrible, unprofessional child Rand Paul is. He constantly bemoans imagined personal attacks, only to levy the same attacks he claims to decry against others. Hypocritcal, dishonest, unprofessional, and immature. It may be difficult, but Rand Paul actually single-handedly worsens the political climate in Washington.
two clowns. same circus.
You go Ron Paul, its time some one showed these Dem-o-Craps, that it is time to stand up for America.
Again, I say, welcome to American politics, rookie. If you can't take the heat, get out the kitchen.