Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller has been in the Senate for less than one month, after being appointed to replace disgraced former Sen. John Ensign, and he is quickly establishing an independent voting record.
On Thursday Heller was one of four Republican senators to vote against extending the sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act that have been fiercely opposed by civil libertarians.
Also voting against the provisions were freshmen tea party stalwarts Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah and moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“I’ve opposed the Patriot Act since Day 1,” Heller said of his vote. “I just don’t think that it’s necessary for the government to know your bank accounts, to be able to enter into your home. I guess, philosophically, I just don’t trust the federal government to use this authority correctly.”
In a statement to The Daily Caller, Heller Communication Director Stewart Bybee said that, despite his advocacy of small government, the senator would not join Paul’s Senate Tea Party Caucus.
Bybee informed TheDC that Heller “believes that the reason the Tea Party’s message has been so effective is because it comes from outside of the Beltway and does not believe it should be institutionalized within Washington, D.C.”
Bybee noted that “Senator Heller supports the Tea Party’s efforts to create smaller government and reduce the national debt and has a good relationship with Tea Party activists in Nevada.”
Heller’s rationale echoes that of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who refused to join the House Tea Party Caucus because he believes that the movement should “remain a grassroots phenomenon, rather than being co-opted by Washington or any political party.”
The membership of the Senate Tea Party Caucus includes Paul, Lee, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran. DeMint voted to extend the sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act after also supporting amendments offered by Paul.