After Ron Paul’s speech, the motion to suspend the rules and pass the extension of three PATRIOT Act provisions failed by a vote of 277-148. Since they were attempting to pass it on the suspension calendar, the vote would have required two thirds (290 members) of the House to agree to it. Click here for the roll call vote to see how your representative voted.
House Member: Mr. Speaker, I’m pleased at this time to recognize the distinguished gentleman from Texas, Mr. Ron Paul, for three minutes.
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman from Texas.
Ron Paul: I thank the gentlemen. I ask unanimous consent to extend and revise my remarks. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill. I was opposed to the PATRIOT Act in 2001, and do not believe now that it’s a good idea to extend it. The 4th Amendment is rather clear, it says that we should be secure in our papers, our persons, our homes, and our effects. And that if warrants are to be issued, we have to do it with probably cause and describe in particular the places, the people and the things that we’re going to look at. And I think what has happened over the years has been that we have diluted the 4th Amendment. It was greatly diluted in 2001, but it started a lot earlier than that when the FISA law was originally written in 1978. That really introduced the notion that the 4th Amendment was relative and not absolute. And later on, it was further weakened in 1998 and then of course in 2001.
I think our reaction to the horrors of 9/11 – we can understand the concern and the fear that was developed – but I think the reaction took us in the wrong direction because the assumption was made, of course, that we weren’t spending enough money on surveillance. And even though then our intelligences agencies received $40 billion, they didn’t give us the right information. So now we’re spending $80 billion.
But it also looks like the conclusion was that the American people had too much privacy, and if we undermine the American people’s privacy, somehow or the another, we’re going to be safer. I think another thing that has come up lately has been that the purpose of government is to make us perfectly safe. Now it is good to be safe, but governments can’t make us safe. I question whether or not we have been made safer by the PATRIOT Act.
But let’s say a law makes us somewhat safer, is that a justification for the government to do anything they want? For instance, if you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way. But what would you be giving up?
So, perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law and to protect our liberties. This, to me, has been especially since 9/11 a classical example of sacrificing liberty for safety and security. Now I didn’t invent those terms, they’ve been around for a long time and it’s easily justified. And I can understand it because I was here in 2001 when this came up and people become frightened. The American people want something done. But I think this is misdirected and it doesn’t serve our benefits.
So, I think this time we should really question why we’re extending this. We’re extending the three worst parts. Why were these sunsetted? Because people had concerns about them, they weren’t sure they were good pieces and maybe they were overkill and therefore they were saying, “We better reassess this”. So what have we done? We have already extended it twice and here we’re going to do it again with the intent, I think in a year, to reassess this. But this bill doesn’t make things worse, it doesn’t make anything better, but it does extend what I consider – and others consider – bad legislation. I ask for no vote on this legislation.
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman’s time has expired.