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WaPo: Mitch McConnell’s Relationship with Rand Paul Falling Apart

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From the Washington Post:

Mitch McConnell stood at his desk on the Senate floor after 1 a.m. Saturday, the eyes of his colleagues trained on him. He seemed bewildered.

“Enter your motion to reconsider,” Laura Dove, his chief floor aide, told the majority leader, the exchange audible throughout the chamber. “You need to enter your motion to reconsider.”

McConnell has studied Senate procedure firsthand over five decades, and there is not much that can leave him flummoxed, even momentarily. But here he stood — thanks to, of all people, his fellow Republican, fellow Kentuckian, close political ally and the man he has endorsed for president — Sen. Rand Paul.

With a dramatic series of procedural maneuvers, Paul had just dashed McConnell’s public pledge to extend a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program beyond a June 1 deadline before the Senate left for a week-long holiday break. The program allows the government agency to collect vast troves of call data from telephone companies as part of the fight against international terrorism. Paul sees it as a violation of individual privacy.

The early-morning antics not only complicated senators’ vacations but created a new chapter in the evolving relationship between McConnell and Paul, who have come to symbolize the once-tenuous but now increasingly comfortable ties between tea party conservatism and the Republican Party mainstream.

McConnell, the consummate insider, and Paul, the populist firebrand, have become increasingly close since Paul crushed McConnell’s hand-picked Senate candidate in the 2010 Republican primary — culminating with Paul campaigning strenuously last year for McConnell’s sixth Senate term, and McConnell returning the favor this year with an endorsement of Paul’s presidential bid.

“We’ve developed a very tight relationship, and I’m for him,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader last year.

Their paths have now diverged. Paul is seeking to motivate his activist base with a mantra of “defeat the Washington machine” as he tries to distinguish himself in a crowded GOP presidential field, while McConnell is trying to corral his fellow Republican senators to govern effectively to boost the party’s standing ahead of the 2016 elections.

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