A huge victory for Sen. Rand Paul, but at what cost? Key parts of the Patriot Act, including the NSA's bulk collection of phone records, expired at midnight after the Republican senator blocked plans to vote on an extension before the deadline, NBC News reports. He admitted that the halt would probably only be for a few days, but he said it was a victory because senators voted to approve the USA Freedom Act compromise passed by the House, which ends the controversial collection, reports the Washington Post. "This is a victory no matter how you look at it," Paul said in a statement. "It might be short-lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution."
When it became clear Paul would let the act expire, he was sharply criticized by other GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has endorsed his presidential bid, Politico reports. Sen. John McCain accused Paul's resistance of being a "fundraising exercise," saying the senator "obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation." McConnell said letting the act expire would mean "disarming completely and arbitrarily, based on a campaign of disinformation" in a speech that Politico notes was interrupted by Sen. Pat Roberts' "Let It Go" ringtone. The White House, meanwhile, urged the Senate to "ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible," NPR reports.