Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul defied leaders of both parties on Thursday and delayed until next week Senate approval of an additional $40 billion in aid Ukraine And its allies are resisting the Russian invasion, which has been going on for three months.
With the Senate ready to debate and vote on Military and economic aid packagePaul denied the leaders the unanimous agreement they needed to move forward. The bipartisan action, backed by President Joe Biden, underscores the United States’ intent to bolster its support for Ukraine’s outnumbered forces.
The legislation was approved by an overwhelming majority by the House of Representatives and has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. The last section is not in doubt.
However, Paul’s objection was a departure from congressional sentiment in favor of quickly helping Ukraine, as it struggles to withstand Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion and tries to dissuade him from escalating the war.
It was also a rebellion against fellow Republican in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Thursday called on “both sides” to “help us pass this urgent funding bill today.”
Paul, a liberal who often opposes US intervention abroad, said he wanted textual language in the bill, without a vote, that would have the inspector general scrutinize new spending. He has a long history of calling for last-minute changes by suspending or threatening to delay bills about to pass, including measures dealing with lynching, punishing Russia, preventing federal shutdowns, the defense budget, government surveillance, and providing care Health to the first responders of the September 11 attack.
Democrats and McConnell opposed Paul’s bid and offered a vote on his language. Paul would have likely lost that vote and declined the offer.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked by CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe about Paul’s insistence on appointing an inspector general — and whether the Biden administration would create some kind of oversight entity to track spending.
“I would say we agree that oversight is critical,” Psaki replied. “That’s why the package already includes millions of dollars to support additional control measures, including additional funding for the current inspectors general and we encourage all senators to pass the bill quickly, and we feel what is in it is sufficient.”
Paul, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, argued that the additional spending was more than the United States was spending on many domestic programs, was comparable to the entire Russian defense budget, and would deepen the federal deficit and increase inflation. Last year’s budget deficit was nearly $2.8 trillion, but is likely to trend lower, and the bill’s spending was less than 0.2% of the size of the US economy, indicating that its impact on inflation will be minimal.
“No matter how sympathetic the case may be, the oath to take office is for the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said. “We cannot save Ukraine by destroying the American economy.”
Democrats said they object to Paul’s plan because it would expand the powers of the current inspector general, whose current jurisdiction is limited to Afghanistan. They said that would deprive Biden of the opportunity to appoint previous presidents to the post.
“It’s clear from Kentucky’s comments that he doesn’t want to help Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. “All he will accomplish with his actions here today is delay that assistance, not stop it.”
Schumer and McConnell almost stood shoulder to shoulder as they tried to push the legislation forward.
“They are asking only for the resources they need to defend themselves against this disorganized invasion,” McConnell said of the Ukrainians. “And they need this help now.”
The House of Representatives voted 368 to 57 on Tuesday to approve the measure. All Democrats and most Republicans supported it, although every “no” vote came from the Republican Party.
Bipartisan support for Ukraine was motivated in part by accounts of Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians that were impossible to ignore. It also reflects strategic concerns about allowing Putin to seize European soil unanswered as his assault on his neighbor to the West continues into its twelfth week.
“Helping Ukraine is not just an example of philanthropy,” McConnell said. “One of the things that directly affects US national security and vital interests is that blatant Russian aggression will not work and lead to huge costs.”
Biden administration officials said they expect the latest aid measure to last through September. But with Ukraine suffering heavy military and civilian casualties and no sense of when the fighting will end, Congress will ultimately be faced with decisions about how much additional assistance to provide at a time of massive US budget deficits and the threat of recession that could require additional home spending.
The latest law, when added to the $13.6 billion approved by Congress in March, would drive US aid to the region by more than $50 billion. From a perspective, this would be $6 billion more than what the United States spent on military and economic aid worldwide in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Paul noted that if the spending were approved by the Senate, the United States would have allowed $60 billion of total spending for Ukraine. “Kyiv will become the largest annual recipient of US military assistance over the past two decades,” Paul said. “It’s more than any other country spends on its entire military expenditures… Our total assistance to Ukraine will almost equal Russia’s entire military budget,” he added.
The push for passage came as Russia continued to bomb Ukrainian troops and cities in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Finland’s leaders announced their support for him, reflecting international concerns raised by the attack Join NATO And It seems that Sweden is not far behind.
Mr. Biden asked Congress for $33 billion two weeks ago. It didn’t take lawmakers long to add $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 forces, as well as $4 billion in funding to help Kyiv 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 forces in the region.
The measure also includes $8.8 billion to keep the Kyiv government running, more than $5 billion to provide food to countries around the world that depend on Ukrainian crops wrecked by fighting and $900 million to teach English and provide other services to Ukrainian refugees who have moved. to the United States.
The biggest obstacle to swift approval of the aid was removed this week when Biden and Democrats dropped their demand that billions more be included in the measure to bolster US efforts to counteract Corona virus pandemic. Republicans want separate COVID-19 legislation to be a battleground for an election season battle over immigration that is dividing Democrats.
Alan contributed to this report.
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