Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Friday that it was premature for him to consider running for president, but that he would would be willing to take on the task "if nominated."
"Come back and ask me in a few months," Paul said in a wide-ranging interview with ABC News, adding that he was "very much interested in trying to shape the debate" by advocating deep, across-the-board spending cuts.
During the sitdown with ABC, Paul also claimed that his "true believer" commitment to fiscal conservatism led him to identify himself as a deficit hawk first and a Republican second.
"There are always problems in our nation's capital that are more important than party affiliation and I will always believe that," Paul said when asked which mantle meant more to him. "It's not necessarily Tea Party versus Republican Party, but I would say that if you ask me what's more important, tackling our nation's deficit, our nation's debt problems or being a Republican, I would say tackling the debt."
Paul's pronouncement came in the wake of a GOP proposal passed down by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who on Thursday announced plans to cut $32 billion from current spending levels for this fiscal year. That number fell far short of the $100-billion figure that Republicans had made in their "Pledge to America" and even shorter of the $500-billion package of cuts that Paul himself put forward last month.
"It's really not going to touch the problem," Paul said of Ryan's plan. "There's a disconnect between Republicans who want a balanced budget but aren't maybe yet brave enough to talk about the cuts to come."
Paul has consistently argued that Republicans need to be more principled and demanding in their stated shift toward stern fiscal austerity.
Earlier this week, Paul delivered his maiden Senate floor speech, in which he compared himself to the uncompromising abolitionist Cassius Clay, cousin of former Kentucky Sen. and House Speaker Henry Clay, of whom Paul said he was not the biggest fan. Paul suggested in that address, and again on Friday, that he would combat spending with the same kind of ardent passion with which people like Cassius Clay fought to end slavery.
"I am fascinated and enthralled by great heroes, people who are true believers, and true believers don't occur in politics very often," Paul told ABC on Friday. "I ran on what I believed in and didn't say I'd come up here to compromise, I said I'd come up here to cut federal spending, to balance the budget and to make government a constitutional body again."
With that in mind, Paul said, he would be willing to cut all foreign aid, including to Israel. Paul drew some fire earlier Friday for referring to U.S. financial support of Israel as "welfare."
WATCH the entire interview below:
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