Tempers flare on Senate floor
May 25th, 2011
07:45 PM ET
12 years ago

Tempers flare on Senate floor

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.

Filed under: Harry Reid • Patriot Act • Rand Paul
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Tony

    Rand Paul keeps proving what we already knew; that he is a self absorbed, self important, egotistical nutjob.

    Do they have recall elections for US Senators in Kentucky? Any Kentuckians having second thoughts?

    May 25, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Sen. Rand is turning into a barker.

    May 25, 2011 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  3. Tim Utz

    We just need another 99 Rand Paul's in the senate and perhaps "We the People" can have our Constitutional Republic back. Hit hard and often Rand Paul.

    May 25, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  4. Republican Robber Baron

    Hmmm...very odd. NOBODY wants the Patriot Act, the Libertarians and Liberals are united in opposition.

    Instead of getting caught-up in technicalities, why not just abolish the Patriot Act?

    Anything the Bush Admin implemented has been a total disaster. Not sure why the Dem's want to keep the Patriot Act especially since the base of the Liberals within the Party oppose it. Go after the "bad guys" and leave American citizens alone. We want our Civil Liberties and Legal Rights back.

    May 25, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  5. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Harry Reid is completely correct on this one. Rand Paul is a disgrace and the people of Kentucky should be ashamed to send this extremist idiot to Washington.

    May 25, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. CBR

    The Patriot Act could be extended as is until a final version is ready. There are some portions of this act that some citizens do not like or have real problems accepting. However, the 2nd amendment covers the issue of guns and it really should not be necessary to add gun measures to this bill as Sen Paul wishes to do. Both Sen. Reid and Sen. Paul have made statements which do not really belong on the floor of the Senate. Do your debating in committee and come forward with a bill that reflects the desires and ideas of both parties. Meanwhile we must all accept that Act as written until such time that most Americans want to see major changes.

    May 25, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. Bob

    For once Reid got some....Warrantless access is the typical call from the right. They would like every criminal and terrorist in the world to own a gun. These people are what makes America unsafe. Thank you NRA.

    May 25, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Ex-GOP Con

    Rand Paul needs to grow up. His tantrum reeked of hypocrisy.

    May 25, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  9. GOP = Greed Over People

    "we don't want our records to be sifted through by a government without judicial review."

    But the moron is ok with warrantless access to every other private aspect of our lives?

    How can this GOP goober be so contradictory in one sentence?

    May 25, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. Clwyd

    Rand Paul or Ron Paul both idiots that don't know how government works. Oh wait, they were elected to destroy government weren't they!

    May 25, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  11. Mike Dallas

    "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."

    Give 'em Hell, Harry! Sometimes the unvarnished truth is not pretty.

    May 25, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  12. Liberty4all

    Democrats are in charge and the Patriot Act is going to be extended.


    You are scum Reid.

    May 25, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  13. JD

    I can't stand the Tea Party – but I'm glad somebody is standing up to the bipartisan attack on our civil liberties called the Patriot Act.

    May 25, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  14. Dingus

    It's funny, this article focuses on what they said to each other and barely mentions the reasons Paul wants this amendment process at all. Reid wants to quickly extend this law. Rand Paul and others want debate and amendments. I certainly hope Rand Paul comes out on top.

    May 25, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    He's a loose cannon without a loaded brain. Thanks Kentucky. You've pushed TWO LOSERS on the rest of the country.

    May 25, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  16. ED FL

    heyRandy dandy Reid is an ex boxer and could beat the Guts out of you with one hand. A better way would be to take you over his knee ,pull down your pants and spank you like the Dumb little old Brat that you are. America knows that you are from Kentucky like Mcconnell. That makes 2 of the dumbest Senators from the least educated constituents in America, you come up with DUMB suggestions and you get treated with Dumb solutions. It is hard to believe that daddys baby Senator has to live with his Daddyin the big City. Grow up before kentucky recalls you.

    May 25, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. DALE

    Rand Paul is a train wreck...what a dufus.

    May 25, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  18. Jeff in Virginia

    Rand is even crazier than his old man. He is an embarrassment to the institution of the Senate.

    May 25, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  19. Marie MD

    Geesh, for somebody like paul who is really NOT a doctor he sure likes to pretend that he is smart, doesn't he? When he raced to the floor was he thinking of stomping Reid (or anyone else) like his goons did to that woman?
    In the whole scheme of things in congress you are a blip that is not even on the radar. Stand down and learn before trying to shove your pre 60s ideas down our throats.

    May 25, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  20. logic in LA

    So much for journalism. How many amendments did he propose? What did they entail?
    We have Who- What – why- but know how or more accurately, the reason for the flare up!

    May 25, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  21. JR

    Rand Paul is the spoiled child of an older Washington nutcake and mistakenly believes himself as a new Jefferson except that he doesn't have any of the moral or mental fiber of Jefferson.

    May 25, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  22. Texas Doc

    Teatard Paul needs to sit down and shut up. Ried is right, these Tea Party America haters want to make it easier for dangerous bloodthirsty Mexican gangsters and other terrorists to buy weapons to use...on us! Any freedom loving American can go to Wal Mart, fill out the paperwork and buy a gun the right way. These things aren't blenders, they are weapons.

    May 25, 2011 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. Reggie from LA

    Been around guns for a lifetime. Superior documented marksmanship. DO NOT LOVE GUNS. For all you "barrel suckers", if you want to own a tool that gives you the ability to decide life or death for someone in a matter of a second, your ass should be held over a fire to have someone know who you are or where you got it from. This is a unique circumstance. This is power for sure. One that not everyone who wants it should have it and the sellers need to be held to a ridiculous standard.

    May 25, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  24. Lestat

    Pathetic display of debating an issue. Last call for the tea partiers, you may wish to leave now.

    May 25, 2011 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  25. GrogInOhio

    Rand Paul's ONLY term is likely to be filled with such displays since he's so utterly clueless about almost everything.

    May 25, 2011 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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