Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cracked a brief laugh at 2016 rival Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as the Florida senator delivered a "very clear" rebuttal to him during a debate on the NSA's bulk collection of phone records.
Cruz contended that the USA Freedom Act, which he supported, “ended the federal government’s bulk collection of phone medadata of millions of law-abiding citizens," but also "strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists."
"When you had a terrorist, you could only search a relatively narrow slice of numbers, primarily landlines. The USA Freedom Act expands that, so now we have cell phones, now we have Internet phones, now we have the phones that terrorists are likely to use and the focus of law enforcement is on targeting the bad guys," Cruz said.
Rubio contended the loss of the program was bad for Americans security and argued "we are now at a time where we need more tools, not less tools."
"And that tool we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal," he said.
Cruz struck back.
“I would note that Marco knows what he’s what he’s saying isn’t true," the Texas senator said. "You know, Mark Levin wrote a column last week that says that the attack ads his super PAC is running that are saying the same thing, that they are knowingly false and they are in fact Alinsky-like attacks like Barack Obama."
“Let me be very careful in answering this, because I don’t think national television, in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information," Rubio quipped back. "So, let me just be very clear, there is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill, that we could not do before."
Cruz let out brief laugher as Rubio continued to go after him.
"This bill did, however, took away a valuable tool, that allowed the national security agency and other intelligence agencies to quickly and rapidly access phone records and match them up with other phone records, to see who terrorists have been calling," Rubio said.
Follow the author of this story on Twitter and Facebook: