Obama and Rand Paul face off over the Patriot Act

WASHINGTON — – President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged the Senate to renew National Security Agency surveillance powers before they expire at midnight Sunday, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul vowed to keep working to block the Patriot Act and the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.“This needs to get done,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked what Obama was doing to round up votes, suggested, without naming him, that Paul needs to put the country first as he runs for the Republican nomination for president.”Right now, I think what we’re seeing is a difference of opinion on the Republican side of the aisle,” Earnest said. “At some point, the political ambitions of individual members of the United States Senate are going to have to come second to the national security of the United States.”Obama called on the Senate to approve a House-passed bill that would change the phone record collection program while renewing less controversial Patriot Act provisions that also expire at the end of the month.

The Senate rejected the House bill by three votes last weekend and is on a break until Sunday, just hours before the spying powers are scheduled to expire.Obama said reauthorizing the surveillance efforts is “necessary to keep the American people safe and secure.”“I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and make sure that they identify a way to get this done,” Obama said.Paul said the House bill supported by Obama, under which the records would be kept by the phone companies instead of the government, doesn’t go far enough to stop the NSA from getting the data.

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