LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- From his filibuster demanding answers on the federal government's use of drones, to his obsession with the national debt, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's issues continue to top the national agenda.
"We're trying to participate in it and bring the country in our direction," Paul told WHAS11. "I think the
people are already interested in a lot of the things I'm talking about. In Washington maybe not so much, but I think they're coming around."
Does that mean that Paul doesn't need to run for President to advance his priorities?
"Well, it would be easier not to, wouldn't it?" Paul said.
Urging Republicans to broaden their appeal, Paul surged to the top of a Public Policy Polling survey in July of Republican 2016 presidential contenders.
His libertarian core has led to bipartisan alliances on restricting the use of both U.S. force and foreign aid and on ending the practice of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, which Paul says disproportionately hurt young African-Americans.
"It ruins the rest of their life because the judges can't have discretion, they get convicted of felonies,
many of them, makes it harder to get a job," Paul told the Louisville Forum lunch gathering at Vincenzo's Restaurant in Louisville. "And I think it's something that isn't just. The ultimate outcome isn't justice."
In a speech to the American Bar Association on Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom Paul has sparred on the drones issue, credited Paul and several other senators for advancing legislation to eliminate federal mandatory minimum laws.
"I think our goal should not be put people in jail and throw away the key," Paul said. "I think our goal should be getting people back into society."
Meanwhile, Paul's endorsement of five-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch Mcconnell (R-Ky) in the 2014 race and his alliance with the Senate Minority leader are seen as beneficial to both of their political fortunes, yet also exposes their differences.
"About a year ago, I endorsed Sen. McConnell," Paul explained to reporters, "and I'm going to stick with that. I support Sen McConnell. I think he has done a good job for Kentucky."
While McConnell said Tuesday that a government shutdown would not stop Obamacare, Paul has signed onto a pledge that threatens to do just that.
"I'm not in favor of shutting down the government either," Paul said after hearing McConnell's statement, "but I am in favor of using our leverage to try to make it less bad. I'd just as soon defund the whole thing and I'll fight for that. But I also know that we don't control all of the government. So we fight for what we can get. We should fight to try to make the legislation less bad."
Paul said with the Obama administration already exemptions to some businesses and delaying the employer mandate, the government should delay implementation of the entire law "if we're all having misgivings about it."
McConnell's GOP Senate primary opponent, Matt Bevin, has joined tea party senators in the pledge to defund Obamacare and released a campaign video on Wednesday criticizing McConnell for not joining the effort.
"Senator McConnell has refused to sign Sen. Mike Lee's pledge to defund Obamacare and has actively tried to defeat this effort by convincing Republican senators like John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to remove their names from Sen. Lee's letter," reads a statement from the Bevin campaign that accompanied the video.
"That's (McConnell's) decision to make," Paul said when asked about the defunding pledge.
"When you vote for the continuing resolution, you vote for thousands of things," Paul said, "and the question is, are any of them objectionable enough that you won't vote for the whole package?"
Paul said his tipping point in such votes is whether it helps to balance the budget.