However, there is no doubt that the document will eventually be adopted.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky defied leaders of both parties and single-handedly postponed until next week the Senate approval procedure for an additional $40 billion needed to help Ukraine and allies resist a three-month invasion by Russia.
Although the Senate was ready to debate and vote on the military and economic aid package, Paul prevented the leaders from gaining the unanimous support that was needed for the bill to pass quickly. This bipartisan measure, supported by President Joe Biden, should underscore the U.S. determination to step up aid to Ukraine.
Earlier, the bill was approved by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and it enjoys strong support from both parties in the Senate. There is no doubt that the document will eventually be adopted.
Nevertheless, Paul’s objection was an audacious departure from the prevailing views in Congress that urgent assistance to Ukraine is necessary both for the prospects of this country to resist Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack and to warn the Russian president against military escalation.
It was also Rand Paul’s revolt against his fellow Republican from Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell began Thursday’s meeting by saying senators “from both parties” needed to “help us pass this urgent funding bill today.” At the same time, McConnell made a decisive gesture, pronouncing the word “today.”
Paul, a libertarian who often opposes U.S. intervention abroad, said he would like to see language added to the bill without a vote that the Inspector General should scrutinize new spending. Senator Paul often demands changes to bills at the last minute, delaying or threatening to delay documents that are on the verge of adoption.
This concerned, for example, sanctions against Russia, preventing the closure of the federal government, the defense budget, state supervision, etc.
Democrats and McConnell opposed Paul’s push and offered to immediately hold a vote on his wording. Paul, realizing that he would most likely lose this vote, rejected such a proposal.
Rand Paul, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for president in 2016, argued that the additional spending exceeds U.S. spending on many domestic programs, is comparable to the entire defense budget of Russia and will worsen the federal budget deficit and inflation. The budget deficit last year amounted to almost $2.8 trillion, but it is likely to decline, and the bill’s spending is less than two-tenths of one percent of the size of the U.S. economy, which suggests that its impact on inflation will be negligible.
“No matter how much sympathy this issue arouses, my oath requires me to serve the national security interests of the United States of America,” Paul said. “We cannot save Ukraine by undermining the U.S. economy.”
Democrats said they objected to Paul’s plan because it would expand the powers of the current Inspector general, whose competence is now limited to Afghanistan. According to them, this will deprive Biden of the chance that previous presidents had to appoint a certain person to this post.
“It is clear from the statements of the junior senator from Kentucky that he does not want to help Ukraine,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York. “All he will achieve with his actions here today is to delay this help, not stop it.”
Emphasizing their joint desire to pass the bill immediately, Schumer and McConnell stood almost shoulder to shoulder trying to move the bill forward.
“They’re only asking for the resources they need to protect themselves from this insane invasion,” McConnell said of Ukrainians. “And they need that help right now.”
On Tuesday, 368 lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted for, and 57 against, a new package of assistance to Ukraine. All Democrats and the majority of Republicans supported the bill, with all the votes “against” coming from the Republican Party.
Bipartisan support for Ukraine was partly due to reports of Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, which could not be ignored. It also reflects strategic concern that Putin may seize the territory of a European state without a response, as his attack on his western neighbor has been going on for the 12th week.
“Helping Ukraine is not just an example of philanthropy,” McConnell said, “it is directly related to national security and America’s vital interests, so that Russia’s undisguised aggression does not succeed and entails significant costs.”
Biden administration officials said they expect the new aid package to be sufficient until September. But since Ukraine is suffering heavy military and civilian casualties and there are no signs that the fighting may end soon, Congress will eventually face the question of how much more aid Ukraine will need to provide at a time of huge U.S. budget deficits and the risk of recession.