U.S. Sen. Rand Paul blocked the Senate from passing a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine this week, derailing a plan to fast-track legislation his fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported.
Paul wanted a provision added into the bill that would assign an inspector general to oversee how these billions are spent. When that didn’t happen, he objected and effectively forced the Senate to wait until next week to vote on the aid for Ukraine because of procedural rules.
McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were working together to try to get the aid approved Thursday.
They were willing to let senators vote separately on Paul’s proposed amendment, which would have needed 60 votes to pass, rather than add it directly into the aid package before senators vote to approve it.
That wasn’t good enough for Paul.
“My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon.
Paul pushes back on military support, aid for other nations
Paul, who has long been skeptical of U.S. military involvement in and foreign aid for other nations, criticized the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on Ukraine, both since Russia invaded the nation in February and in past years.
“With a $30 trillion debt, America can’t afford to be the world’s policeman,” he said.
McConnell publicly urged his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky to change course — to no avail.
McConnell, Schumer compromise scuttled by Paul
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell recommended Paul accept the compromise being offered: Let senators vote separately on his proposed amendment, and then pass the aid package for Ukraine so they could get this done by the end of the day. (The House of Representatives already approved the aid, and if the Senate amended the bill it would have required another vote in the House.)
“Ukraine is not asking us to fight this war. They’re only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion, and they need this help right now,” McConnell said. “This conflict has direct and major consequences for America’s national security and America’s national interest.”
Schumer derided Paul’s intransigence in his own speech on the Senate floor, noting that “the vast majority” of Democratic and Republican senators support the aid package.
“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 said Thursday of Paul. “He is simply saying: ‘My way, or the highway.’
“When you have a proposal to amend a bill, you can’t just come to the floor and demand it by fiat. You have to convince other members to back it first. That is how the Senate works.”
Paul didn’t budge.
He defended his move on Twitter Thursday night, saying: “All I requested is an amendment to be included in the final bill that allows for the Inspector General to oversee how funds are spent. Anyone who is opposed to this is irresponsible.”
“Passing this bill brings the total we’ve sent to Ukraine to nearly $54 billion over the course of two months,” he continued. “It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula.”
Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.