Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday blocked the Senate’s attempt to fast-track President Biden’s $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine over concerns there is insufficient oversight and transparency into how the money is being spent.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, both hoped for a swift final passage of the bill, after the House overwhelmingly approved the aid 368-57 on Tuesday.
But Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, blocked Mr. McConnell’s request for unanimous consent on the measure Thursday afternoon without the addition of language into the bill that would create a special inspector general to oversee the disbursal of aid to Ukraine.
The move was met with vitriol from both the Democrat and Republican leaders anxious to get the aid out the door. Mr. Paul’s objection will push the Senate’s final vote on the measure into next week.
“He is simply saying my way or the highway,” Mr. Schumer said. “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.”
Mr. McConnell reminded his colleagues of the urgency behind the aid.
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“Sending lethal assistance to Ukraine is not just some kind of philanthropy,” he said. “This conflict has direct and major consequences for America’s national security and America’s national interest.”
Mr. Paul refused to budge on the added language, and raised further concerns about U.S. spending for the war amid economic uncertainty at home.
“My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not any foreign nation … We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy,” Mr. Paul said. “It isn’t that we always have to be the Uncle Sam, the policeman that saves the world, particularly when it’s on borrowed money.”
Mr. McConnell said, “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,” he said. “And they need this help right now.”
The bill, which includes $18.7 billion in military assistance, and funds to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons already sent to Ukraine, has overwhelming support in the Senate.
The bill hit an initial snag over Democrats’ calls to couple the aid with a proposal for $10 billion in additional COVID-19 funds.