WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to press President Barack Obama to eliminate a provision in the Patriot Act that gives the National Security Agency access to bulk collections of ordinary Americans' phone data.
Paul's office said on Wednesday that the senator was filibustering an extension of the Patriot Act, which the Senate plans to consider this week. However, the legislation is not actually under consideration yet, since the Senate is still working on trade legislation, making Paul's takeover of the Senate floor -- which began shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday -- more of a long speech than a filibuster.
"The president began this program by executive order, he should immediately end it through executive order," Paul, who is a candidate for president in 2016, charged. "For over a year now he has said the program is illegal."
In 2011, Obama signed a four-year renewal of a number of Patriot Act provisions, including the one authorizing the NSA to search phone records and conduct wiretaps. While the program was initially established during the George W. Bush administration, Paul on Wednesday placed the blame squarely on Obama's shoulders.
"He has the power to do it at his fingertips. He began this illegal program. He has every power to stop it and yet the president does nothing," Paul said. "I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged."
Despite the fact that the Senate isn't working on the NSA legislation, Paul's "filibuster" will likely delay action in the upper chamber, causing further complications and making it harder for the Senate to wrap up the trade bill and move to bills that need to be finished before the Memorial Day recess.