Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump team prepares dramatic cuts Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday MORE ceded the Senate floor just before midnight Wednesday after more than 10 hours.
"My voice is rapidly leaving, my bedtime has long since passed," the Kentucky Republican said as he wrapped up his speech. "There is a hunger in America for somebody to stand up, for all of us to stand up. … We need to end the bulk collection of records."
Paul took over the Senate floor around 1:18 p.m. on Wednesday, in what his staff called a filibuster of extending the Patriot Act.
The Senate is currently debating fast-track, with a procedural vote expected later Thursday. Paul's move blocked his Senate colleagues from offering, debating and voting on amendments to that bill — something Democrats were quick to highlight.
But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has spearheaded the trade legislation, suggested he wasn't concerned, adding that lawmakers are still working on a path forward on amendments.
"We are working on these trade issues, and as soon as we have an opportunity to resume we're going to be, you know, pursuing that," he told The Hill.
Shortly after Paul's speech ended, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) moved to adjourn, meaning the Senate wouldn't be able to take a procedural vote on either a surveillance reform bill or a "clean" extension of the Patriot Act until at least Saturday, unless they agree to shorten the final 30 hours of debate allowed under Senate rules.
Under Senate rules, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moves to end debate on either bills Thursday, senators would have wait 30 hours to take a procedural vote.
Then, if cloture is invoked, the Senate will have up to 30 additional hours of debate.
McConnell could try to get unanimous consent requests from all senators to try to finish up work on the trade and surveillance legislation, though it would only take one senator to block his effort.
Paul said he launched his hours-long speech in an effort to force a public debate about the Patriot Act.
"I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged," Paul said. "The bulk collection of all Americans' phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment."
The Kentucky Republican's unofficial filibuster quickly garnered bipartisan support from a handful of his colleagues. Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Wyden and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) came to the Senate floor to back Paul’s efforts, relieving him for minutes at a time.
Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) also watched Paul's speech from the sidelines of the Senate floor.
Paul has made his opposition to National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, and he's pledged for weeks to block any efforts to extend the Patriot Act.
He quickly sought to build on the momentum of his speech, asking his supporters in an email to “join the filibuster” or “chip in” and donate to his presidential campaign.
Senators are torn over how to deal with provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire June 1.
McConnell has pledged a vote on the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA's collection of bulk phone records.
Under the bill, the agency would have to ask private companies for a narrow set of phone records tied to a particular case. The NSA would also no longer hold the phone records in a government database.
Still, it's not clear whether the USA Freedom Act can garner the 60 votes needed in the Senate. On the other hand, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Republican whip, suggested he wasn’t sure whether leadership had the votes to block the reform bill.
“We haven’t whipped that at this point, and I don’t know,” he told reporters.
Paul doesn't support the USA Freedom Act in its current form, but said that he wants to offer approximately six amendments to the legislation.
That would include blocking the government from being able to force social media networks to allow the government access "indiscriminately."
He added that he would also want to replace the Patriot Act extension with "comprehensive surveillance reform."
"I think we are working very hard and at this point that between your actions and my actions that hopefully leaders … will agree to allow amendments to the Patriot Act," Paul told Wyden, after the Oregon Democrat suggested that the speech was in the "homestretch."
"My hope is that we can get an answer from the leadership in both parties."
McConnell and other top Republicans oppose the USA Freedom Act and are pushing to pass a "clean" extension of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the NSA uses in an attempt to justify its phone records program.
If both bills fail, the Senate could be forced to pass a short-term extension of the spy powers, though House leadership has suggested a stopgap measure wouldn’t make it through the lower chamber.
On the sidelines of Paul’s speech, the Justice Department said the NSA would begin winding down the controversial program tied to Section 215 this week.
McConnell and other Republicans have warned that letting the Patriot Act provisions expire would threaten national security, and potentially allow for another terrorist attack.
But Paul rejected that notion, saying, "I think we are just as safe, or safer with nothing."
More than 10 hours into Paul's effort, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is also running for president, came to the Senate floor saying Paul "is a voice that this body needs to listen to."
"I would note that he and I agree on a great may issues, though we don't agree entirely on this issue," the Texas Republican said. Cruz, unlike Paul, supports the USA Freedom Act.
Paul also thanked Cruz "for joining in the battle to defend the Bill of Rights."
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