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Mitch Perry Report for 5.21.15 — A comeback for Rand Paul?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It may not have actually been the definition of a filibuster, but Rand Paul worked his ass off last night on the Senate floor yesterday, calling attention to the dangers of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. He spoke for 10 and a half hours, beginning at 1:18 p.m. and lasting nearly until midnight, calling it a day at 11:49 p.m.

It was the second filibuster or near filibuster that Paul has performed in his first term in the Senate, and like the last time, he was joined briefly last night by Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Seven Democrats also joined in on the fun, with New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Delaware’s Chris Coons, Washington State’s Maria Cantwell, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and Montana’s Jon Tester all taking part.

At issue is the NSA’s  collection of bulk data. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is used to authorize that collection, will sunset June 1. What will the Senate do? They’re scheduled to (what else) take a week off after today, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged the Senate to pass a clean reauthorization of the program, but Paul and others have vowed to reject that proposal. There was the possibility that if Paul had continued on, the Senate would have been forced to deal with the issue this holiday weekend, but that apparently isn’t the case now.

The near-filibuster certainly helps put Paul back into the national spotlight, as he competes for the Republican nomination for president. Paul’s brand has taken a beating over the past six months, ever since he got more serious about thinking about his candidacy and therefore changing what had been his idiosyncratic, libertarian isolationist style that prompted Time magazine to label him “the most interesting man in politics” last fall.

But then he started changing a lot of his positions on foreign policy, as he realized that the average GOP primary voter wants more engagement overseas, not less. What makes Paul a potential viable general election candidate is how he talks and thinks about things that few other Republicans do (again it was notable how many Democrats joined him last night). Cynics might suggest that his trips to Berkeley and Howard University were also calculated, and that his true political persona is really unformed. Maybe so, but when it comes to fears about an overbearing U.S. government when it comes to surveillance, there are a lot of folks who agree with him (though not as nearly as much as one might think, if polls are the true indication).

In other news…

Hillsborough county commissioners yesterday to a person said they wanted to enact a wage theft ordinance, but as to how robust that will be, well, let’s just say Kevin Beckner has his doubts. 

The Hillsborough County legislative delegation gathered as one yesterday for lunch and a little conversation at Maestro’s restaurant inside the Straz Center in Tampa yesterday. The group of six Republicans and two Democrats (where was Ed Narain?) got into talking about-what else, Medicaid expansion and the budget impasse.

PSTA, the Pinellas County transit agency, is utilizing the talents of Tony Collins on some consulting projects in 2015. Collins was with the Tampa communications firm of Tucker/Hall for years until last year, right around the same time that agency stopped working on the Greenlight Pinellas branding effort.

And Barbara Boxer couldn’t let Marco Rubio get away with attempting to dictate where Americans can stay in Cuba. The exchange between the two coastal senators took place yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the latest developments with the United States and the Communist island.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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