By Eugene Scott, CNN
Updated 7:03 AM ET, Sun August 2, 2015
Washington (CNN) Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul refused to say Sunday whether he supports the efforts of some Senate Republicans to threaten a government shutdown over federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
"I support any legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood. But I don't think you start out with your objective to shut down government," Paul told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview aired Sunday on "State of the Union."
Paul introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood this week after the release of videos that accuse the nonprofit of selling fetal tissue.
The number of lawmakers calling for the government to stop giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood is growing. On Thursday, 18 lawmakers sent a letter to Republican leadership calling for the organization's funding to be tied to spending legislation and vowed not to support any spending bill until the nonprofit no longer receives government funds.
"I mean if President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn't get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama's determination to shut down government," Paul told Tapper.
But with many Americans expressing concern about Planned Parenthood's practices, Paul said the group should no longer receive taxpayer dollars.
"A lot of people, even a lot of pro-choice people, are upset by these videos," Paul said. "I think most Americans don't want their tax dollars going to this. So I think when something is so morally repugnant to so many people, why should tax dollars go to this?"
Paul said funding currently going to Planned Parenthood should go to 9,000 community health centers "that do everything that Planned Parenthood does, but they don't get into abortions."
"I do support a role for government in community health centers. The specific bill, including it in Obamacare, obviously, would make it such that I can't support that particular bill," he said. "But supporting some funding for community health centers, I think, is reasonable. And there are people who do need help."
Paul also touched upon his foreign policy views, which have been criticized by Republicans who frequently call him weak on fighting ISIS. The senator fired back, saying many of his opponents supported the U.S. military entering conflicts that he said have actually helped terrorists.
"I'm a small government conservative, one who believes in the Constitution. I will do whatever it takes to defend the country, but I'm not interested or a believer that every intervention has been good for us," Paul said. "Many of the Republicans who are carping at my heels, those who want to be relevant in this debate, they supported Hillary Clinton's war in Libya. They supported sending money to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."
On Trump, Paul said his standing in recent polls suggests a "temporary loss of sanity" among voters interested in "empty talk."
"There are a lot of people upset. I'm one of them. The reason I left being a physician, you know, I'm not a career politician. I got involved in this because I was upset with Washington," he said. "There is a vein of anger, yes, that represents some of those who are thinking about Donald Trump, but I think there's also going to be a serious debate, ultimately, starting this week, in the presidential debates, about who has the ideas that would fix the country."