Rand Paul blocks $40 billion in aid to Ukraine by denying unanimous consent in Senate

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky defied leaders of both parties on Thursday, delaying Senate approval for another $40 billion until next week Ukraine and his allies resist the three-month-old invasion of Russia.

With the Senate ready to debate and vote on the package of military and economic aid, Paul leaders denied the unanimous agreement they needed to move forward. The two-pronged measure, backed by President Joe Biden, underscores the US determination to strengthen its support for Ukraine’s outnumbered armed forces.

The legislation has been passed by an overwhelming majority in the House and has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. The final passage is not in dispute.

Still, Paul’s objection was a departure from the overwhelming sentiment in Congress to help Ukraine quickly as it fights to resist Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion and tries to discourage him from escalating the war.

It was also an uprising against his fellow Republican from Kentucky, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Thursday called on “both sides” to “help us get through this urgent funding bill today.”

Paul, a libertarian who often opposes US intervention abroad, said he wanted language to be included in the bill, without a vote, that would allow an inspector general to investigate the new spending. He has a long history of demanding last-minute changes by halting or threatening to delay bills as they go through, including anti-lynching measures, sanctions against Russia, avoiding a federal shutdown, the defense budget, government surveillance and the provision of health care to the Sept. 11 attack first responders.

Democrats and McConnell opposed Paul’s push and offered to vote on his language. Paul would likely lose that vote and rejected the offer.

Paul, who unsuccessfully tried to win his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, argued that the additional spending exceeded U.S. spending on many domestic programs, was comparable to Russia’s entire defense budget, and would widen federal deficits and drive inflation. would worsen. Last year’s budget deficit was close to $2.8 trillion, but is likely to go down, and bill spending is less than 0.2% of the size of the U.S. economy, suggesting the impact on inflation is negligible. would be.

“As sympathetic as the matter may be, my oath of office is aimed at the national security of the United States of America,” said Paul. “We can’t save Ukraine by damning the US economy.”

Democrats said they objected to Paul’s plan because it would extend the powers of an existing inspector general whose current jurisdiction is limited to Afghanistan. That would deprive Mr Biden of the opportunity previous presidents have had to make an appointment to the post, they said.

“It’s clear from the junior senator’s comments from Kentucky’s comments that he doesn’t want to help Ukraine,” New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said. “The only thing he will achieve with his actions here today is to delay, not stop, that aid.”

Schumer and McConnell almost stood side by side as they tried to push the legislation forward.

“They are only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion,” McConnell said of the Ukrainians. “And they need this help now.”

The House voted 368 to 57 on Tuesday to approve the measure. All Democrats and most Republicans supported it, although every “no” vote came from the GOP.

The bipartisan support for Ukraine is partly due to reports of Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians that were impossible to ignore. It also reflects strategic concerns over Putin’s failure to take European territory unanswered as his attack on his neighbor to the west enters its 12th week.

“Helping Ukraine is not mere philanthropy,” McConnell said. “It directly affects America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression fails and comes at significant cost.”

Biden government officials have said they expect the last aid measure to last until September. But with Ukraine suffering heavy military and civilian losses and no idea when the fighting will end, Congress will eventually be faced with decisions about how much more aid to deliver at a time of massive US budget deficits and a risk of a recession that will push additional spending. might require at home.

The latest bill, added to the $13.6 billion Congress passed in March, would put U.S. aid to the region well above $50 billion. For perspective, that would total $6 billion more than the U.S. spent on military and economic aid around the world in 2019, according to the impartial Congressional Research Service.

The push for passage came as Russia continued shelling Ukrainian troops and towns in southern and eastern parts of the country. As a result of the international concern sparked by the attack, Finnish leaders announced their support for NATO accession and Sweden appeared not to be far behind.

Mr Biden asked Congress for $33 billion two weeks ago. Before long, lawmakers added $3.4 billion to his requests for both military and humanitarian programs.

The measure includes $6 billion for Ukraine for intelligence, equipment and training for its troops, plus $4 billion in funding to help Kiev and NATO allies build their militaries.

There is $8.7 billion for the Pentagon to rebuild the weapons stockpiles it shipped to Ukraine and $3.9 billion for US troops in the region.

The measure also includes $8.8 billion to keep the Kiev government functioning, more than $5 billion to provide food to countries around the world that depend on Ukrainian crops devastated by the fighting and $900 million to Teach English and provide other services to Ukrainian refugees who have moved to the United States.

The biggest hurdle to rapid aid approval was removed this week when Biden and Democrats pushed for additional billions in the measure to accelerate U.S. efforts to fight the corona pandemic† Republicans want separate COVID-19 legislation to become a battleground for an immigration campaign that divides Democrats.

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