Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday blocked speedy Senate passage of a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, defying leaders of both parties who urged lawmakers to approve the military and economic assistance quickly and warning that “we cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had called on both Republicans and Democrats “to help us pass this urgent funding bill today,” but Paul refused to allow the unanimous agreement the Senate needed to proceed to a vote on the bill. Paul wanted language inserted into the bill to have a federal watchdog oversee the Ukraine aid.
“I’m not allowing a speedy passage of the bill without having something fiscally responsible in the bill,” Paul told reporters, and in a speech on the Senate floor he criticized the additional deficit spending, warning that it fuels inflation and ignores domestic priorities. “We will have to borrow that money from China to send it to Ukraine,” he said. “With a $30 trillion debt, America can’t afford to be the world’s policeman.”
Paul rejected a deal reached by McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that reportedly would have brought the aid bill to a vote, with Paul’s language as an amendment, after lawmakers first considered a stand-alone bill from Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) to establish a special inspector general for the Ukraine aid.
“As the war in Ukraine extends into its third month, we have a moral obligation — a moral obligation — to stand with Ukraine in its fight against Putin’s immoral war,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The package is ready to go. The vast majority of senators on both sides of the aisle want it. There is now only one thing holding us back: The junior senator from Kentucky is preventing swift passage of Ukraine aid because he wants to add, at the last minute, his own changes directly into the bill. His change is strongly opposed by many members from both parties. He is not even asking for an amendment. He is simply saying, my way or the highway.”
Schumer later added that Paul’s remarks made it clear he doesn’t want to aid Ukraine. “All he will accomplish with his actions here today is to delay that aid, not to stop it,” Schumer said.
The bottom line: Paul “has a long history of demanding last-minute changes by holding up or threatening to delay bills on the brink of passage, including measures dealing with lynching, the defense budget and providing health care to the Sept. 11 attack first responders,” Alan Fram of the Associated Press writes.
Paul’s objection here will delay the Senate vote on the Ukraine aid package until at least next week. If the Senate ultimately makes changes to the bill, it would force the House to vote on it again before it could go to President Joe Biden’s desk, threatening to further delay funding that the Biden officials have said is needed by May 19.