A temporary victory for the Constitution

  • 1 June 2015
  • NormanL
A temporary victory for the Constitution

Senator Rand Paul managed, if only briefly, to thwart the government's bulk collection of cell phone data. But the debate over the limits of government power did more than simply address certain sections of the Patriot Act. It made abundantly clear who supports limited government, and who does not.

The rhetorical tantrums were bipartisan. But the rancor emanating from the GOP's establishment wing was something to behold:

Behind closed doors in the Senate’s Strom Thurmond Room, Republican senators lashed out at the junior Kentucky Republican’s defiant stance to force the expiration of key sections of the PATRIOT Act, a law virtually all of them support. Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ criticism was perhaps the most biting: He accused the senator of “lying” about the matter in order to raise money for his presidential campaign, according to three people who attended the meeting.

The message may have gotten through to Paul except for one thing: The libertarian-minded senator skipped the hour-long meeting. That only infuriated his colleagues more.


“Anything that goes against anything he believes, he never comes,” Coats said in an interview. “It’s always helpful if you’re in there working to have your position understood, and we all learn a lot and we all try to come to a much better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”


“He needed to be there,” said Sen. Dean heller">Heller (R-Nev.). “He really needed to be there.”


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that Paul has missed “a number of meetings” republicans">Republicans have held on the PATRIOT Act in recent weeks. He contended there was an obvious political reason for Paul’s stance, pointing out how his colleague was tweeting supporters taking “selfies” of themselves next to Paul speaking on TV.


“I know what this is about — I think it’s very clear – this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise,” McCain said Sunday. “He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.”


Did Sen. Paul use this debate to help his presidential campaign? Absolutely. Then again, presidential campaigns are supposed to be about big issues, and we think the constitution">constitution">Constitution and limited government are at the top of that list. In that regard, this debate, and Paul's forcing the issue, did the nation a service.

It also helped strip away whatever doubts some may have harbored about the GOP stance on those matters. Paying lip service to limited government is what they do best. When it actually comes to taking away even a small amount of government's power, they balk.

We would be remiss if we did not note that Sen. Coats has said he intends to retire after this term and that John McCain will likely be challenged in a primary next year.