White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest suggested that Senate Republicans are putting their own presidential political futures ahead of the importance of extending provisions of the Patriot Act.
“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,” he said.
Earnest was likely alluding to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has made opposition to the section 215 provision used by the NSA to collect metadata a central point of his presidential campaign.
“Alone among presidential candidates, I am leading the fight to end this unconstitutional program,” he wrote in a Breitbart News op-ed today. “They are threatening our rights, freedoms, and privacy by encouraging the NSA to continue their warrantless tapping of American’s cell phones, and all without good reason.”
Paul blocked the Senate from moving forward on the bill, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a special Senate session for Sunday, ahead of the June 1 deadline.
Earnest said that Obama was “ready and willing” to engage with senators on the issue, asserting that every Senate Democrat voted for a compromise to move the legislation forward but declined to read out any specific communication with members of the Senate.
On Friday, Earnest criticized Senate Republicans for “playing chicken” with the important legislation.
“They are in a situation where they’re going to try to do a two-week extension or a short-term extension on these critical national security authorities, and to play chicken with that is grossly irresponsible,” he said.