This was probably unsurprising. Also unsurprising to anyone paying attention is that 41 of the 42 no votes were Republican. Including, natch, America’s foremost champion of civil liberties and the true progressive alternative in 2016, Mr. Rand Paul.
Now, yes, yes, unlike most of his Republican colleagues, Paul ostensibly opposed the bill because it wasn’t robust enough. But this makes about as much sense as most heighten-the-contradictions arguments (i.e. none.) This was, to be clear, far from a great bill. But it’s also quite clearly better than anything that’s going to be passed by the next Congress. As Savage and Peters observe:
One possibility would be a bill that is scaled back enough to win over more hawkish Republicans, while relying on the votes of some Democrats, like Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who were more skeptical of broad-based reform.
But resistance from inside the Republican Party has been unrelenting. Before Tuesday’s vote, two top former officials from the Bush administration — Michael B. Mukasey, the former attorney general, and Michael V. Hayden, the former N.S.A. and C.I.A. director, essentially called the bill a gift to terrorists in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal that carried the headline “N.S.A. Reform That Only ISIS Could Love.”
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another possible 2016 presidential candidate, has staked out a position consistent with more hawkish Republicans. On Tuesday he called the bill “a reaction to misinformation and alarmism.”
McConnell strongly opposed this legislation as doing too much to rein in the NSA, and especially with Udall losing the chances of a better bill emerging next year can be safely estimated at 0%. So Paul’s motives for opposing the legislation are irrelevant; he’s a cat’s paw for the Mukasey/Hayden team when the rubber hits the road, and all the showoff filibusters in the world won’t change the fact that he voted for this one too.
By the way, in case you had any doubts about whether this is a bad outcome, I note that it’s been endorsed by the man who thinks there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Sonia Sotomayor and Sam Alito and that John McCain totally would have signed the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Matt Stoller. Right, Rand Paul isn’t a self-aggrandizing blowhard but a Machiavellian mastermind who’s going to outwit Mitch McConnell. Now that Obama can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes and sellouts like Mark Udall are out of Congress, the people will rise up and a unified Republican Congress will pass real NSA reform! Just you wait!
UPDATE: Rand Paul does “feel bad” about being a complete fraud, which is certainly worth nothing.