He continued his stand on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday morning, before flying to Chicago for campaign events there. "I found things that really, really need to be addressed that it just happens to be the time to address them," he told host Joe Scarborough. "The Patriot Act, me standing up against the Patriot Act, is one of those."
Meanwhile, his Twitter account has pumped out a string of messages proclaiming his defiance of attempts to extend the NSA program, which collects large troves of "metadata" -- call numbers, times and durations -- from private phone companies for later search by intelligence officials.
Early Saturday morning, the Senate failed to advance several measures that would have extended the NSA's bulk telephone surveillance capabilities, if only temporarily. Two bills -- a House-passed reform bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would wind down the government data collection after six months; the other a two-month extension of the current program -- failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to proceed. Paul led a small cadre of senators who objected to even shorter-term stopgaps that would have needed unanimous support.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent senators home for a weeklong recess without a resolution but ordered them back to the Capitol Sunday for potential votes just hours ahead of the midnight deadline. But it is not at all clear what can change as long as Paul mantains his opposition and McConnell and most Senate Republicans refuse to cave to his demands.
Even if 60 votes materialized to proceed with the USA Freedom Act, which won 57 votes on Saturday, that wouldn't necessarily prevent a lapse in the authority for the bulk surveillance program. That's because the vote early Saturday, and a possible Sunday reprise, would be on a motion to limit debate on proceeding to the USA Freedom Act, not on the act itself. If that vote succeeded Sunday night but Paul or his Democratic allies still objected to moving forward, it would be Tuesday or possibly Wednesday before final passage could be secured under Senate rules -- meaning a lapse of a day or more.
Any path to continuing the authority for the NSA program would require Paul to consent to moving up the votes, and Paul has made clear he will not consent to much unless he is promised votes on two amendments at simple-majority thresholds. A continuation of the current authority, he told CBS, "will only happen if they let me have a vote on ending bulk collection."
"What I'm looking for right now is to see if the other side will negotiate," he said. "I'm not being unreasonable. ... I would like to have a vote on ending the bulk collection. I think we can win that vote."
Spokeswoman Jillian Lane said Wednesday that Paul continues to seek votes on two amendments of six he previously proposed, but she declined to specify which two they might be.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Obama administration officials continued to call on the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which at this point appears to be the most direct path to a continuation of the surveillance program. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said a failure to act would cause "a serious lapse in our ability to protect the American people" -- pointing to other authorities in the expiring Patriot Act provision that authorize "vital and non-controversial tools that we use to combat terrorism and crime." Those tools, known as the "roving wiretap" and "lone wolf" authorities, have not been a subject of Paul's opposition.
If the Senate voted Sunday to move forward with the USA Freedom Act, it is unclear whether Paul's posture would change. Lane declined to say whether Paul would continue his objections: "At this point in time, we are not commenting on hypotheticals."