Paul doubles down on Patriot Act opposition

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWhat to watch for on Day 2 at the GOP convention Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE is committed to voting against reauthorizing the Patriot Act, even if it jeopardizes the chance to roll back government surveillance.

“I’m opposed to the Patriot Act and will vote no,” the Kentucky Republican said at the South by Southwest festival, according to US News and World Report

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Paul, who sued the Obama administration over the operations of the National Security Agency (NSA) last year, has been unyielding in his opposition to the spy agency. 

Last year, he infuriated some civil libertarians by voting to filibuster an NSA reform bill called the USA Freedom Act, which would have effectively ended the agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by forcing agents to get the records from private phone companies after obtaining a court order. At the same time, however, it would also have reauthorized the portion of the Patriot Act on which the program is based, as well as two other sections of the law.

The fight is set to return to Congress in coming months, ahead of a June 1 deadline when those provisions are set to expire.

Critics of the NSA have eyed that deadline as their best chance to rein in the agency’s spying, but Paul appeared committed to opposing any reform that extended the controversial legal provisions.

“I will vote for the Freedom Act as long as it doesn’t include reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” he told US News on Monday.

The issue has helped to distinguish the Kentuckian from other potential 2016 presidential hopefuls.

Hawks such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have endorsed the NSA’s operations, which they have said are crucial to fighting terrorists, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) co-sponsored the reform bill last year.

“I'm the only candidate who thinks the NSA program on phone records should be shut down,” Paul said at the conference over the weekend. Despite the expectation he will soon announce a run for the White House, Paul later clarified that he was referring to his status as a Senate candidate running for reelection.