For the last two weeks, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul have offered competing visions for balancing national security and civil liberties in the original post-9/11 anti-terror law, the USA Patriot Act. On Tuesday, both Kentucky Republicans lost.
Their defeat came at the hands of 67 fellow senators, who voted to endorse a compromise between their two visions and pass the USA Freedom Act—a bill that extends the Patriot Act while ending the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata. The House approved that measure last month, and it now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The battle between McConnell and Paul was an awkward one, to say the least. The two are reluctant allies, and the establishment-friendly majority leader has endorsed Paul’s candidacy for the presidency despite trying to keep him out of the Senate five years ago. But they are miles apart when it comes to national security and foreign policy, and neither of them tried to paper over their differences over the Patriot Act. Paul has joined privacy advocates in criticizing the reforms in the Freedom Act as too weak, and he won a temporary victory Sunday night when his objections on the Senate floor forced the NSA to halt a trio of Patriot Act programs that expired at midnight.