Kentucky Senator Rand Paul single-handedly delayed Thursday a two-pronged effort to quickly send $40 billion in aid to Ukraine that Congress had been trying to accelerate amid the escalating brutality of the Russian war.
The Senate unanimous consent required to remove procedural hurdles and approve the humanitarian and military aid package, which the House passed 368 to 57 Tuesday. mr. Paul, a Republican and a libertarian who generally opposes U.S. spending on foreign aid, objected and dropped what had been an extraordinary effort to swiftly steer the largest package of foreign aid through Congress in at least two decades.
Mr. Paul had tried to amend the bill to include a provision requiring an inspector general to oversee spending, and was not satisfied with a counter-offer from party leaders to vote on that bill separately. In his objection on the Senate floorMr Paul quoted concerns about inflation and rising energy and gas prices.
“My oath of office is to the US Constitution, not to any foreign nation,” he said, adding, “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy.”
The Senate is expected to still approve the aid package, but Mr Paul’s objection will postpone a vote until at least next week.
Any change to the legislation would require a second vote in the House and potentially invite other lawmakers to make their own changes, delaying agreement on the legislation. On the Senate floor, New York Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said lawmakers in both parties were concerned about the proposal.
“If every member took every bill in exchange for every last little demand, it would mean total and permanent paralysis for this chamber,” he warned. Mr Schumer added sharply: “If you have a proposal to amend a bill, you have to convince members to support it. The junior senator from Kentucky didn’t.”
With Russia’s campaign turning more violent as the war enters its 11th week, some Democratic and Republican lawmakers have cast aside their skepticism about entangling the United States — at least financially — in a foreign war. With the $40 billion package, President Biden could authorize the transfer of up to $11 billion in US weapons, equipment and military supplies, and send billions of dollars to support the Ukrainian government and refugees from the country.
Antony J. Blinken, the Secretary of State, and Lloyd J. Austin III, the Secretary of Defense, warned Congress in a letter this week that the package must become law before May 19 “to provide uninterrupted critical military support to our Ukrainian partners. †