US Republican Senator Rand Paul thwarts effort to pass EUR 38.5 bn Ukraine aid bill

Top US Democrat and Republican senators joined forces in a rare moment of unity on Thursday in an attempt to pass EUR 38.5 billion in aid for Ukraine, only to be stymied by a single Republican lawmaker: Senator Rand Paul.

Faced with the prospect of an extended delay for the package that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, sought to move forward on the aid package only to be blocked by Senator Paul, a longtime fiscal hawk who objects to the lack of an inspector general to oversee spending on Ukraine.

The stalemate delayed the passage of the measure into next week.

Ukraine aid bill timeline

The Senate has scheduled an initial procedural vote on the bill for late Monday afternoon. It was unclear whether that vote would then speed up the passage of the aid to Ukraine bill. Alternatively, passage could come around the middle of next week if any senator wants to force a series of legislative steps before a final vote.

As the Ukraine aid bill became caught in the Senate’s procedures, Senator Schumer pleaded for fast action: “The package is ready to go, the vast majority of senators on both sides of the aisle want it.”

“If Senator Paul persists in his reckless demands ... all he will accomplish is to single-handedly delay desperately-needed Ukraine aid,” he stressed.

The delay consquences

The delay into next week could cause problems for Western nations trying to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The Biden administration has said that by May 19 it expects to run out of available funds to draw on under an authority that allows the president to authorise the transfer of weapons without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

“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. And they need this help right now,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Mr Paul's fellow senator from Kentucky, said.

According to the Latest UN update on civilian casualties in the context of Russia’s armed attack against Ukraine, Russia already killed at least 3,496 civilians, including 238 children.

Why is Rand Paul objecting to the bill?

According to Rand Paul, the bill does not include an inspector general to oversee spending on Ukraine. “All I requested is an amendment to be included in the final bill that allows for the Inspector General to oversee how funds are spent. Anyone who is opposed to this is irresponsible,” the Senator twitted.

However, he also added that this bill is “threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula,” reffering to the baby formula shortages in the US.

Offer, refusal and back to the legislative process

On Thursday, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell offered Paul an amendment vote on his proposal that would have required support from 60 of the 100 senators to pass.

Rand Paul refused the offer and demanded the Senate adopt his amendment before voting on the aid package.

“This is the second spending bill for Ukraine in two months. And this bill is three times larger than the first,” Senator Paul said before formally blocking the aid package. “Congress just wants to keep on spending, and spending,” he added.

Without Senator Paul’s agreement, the Senate must follow a lengthy legislative process.