Senate lone resister Rand Paul delays Ukraine aid vote until next week

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday opposed a Senate vote on aid to Ukraine, delaying passage of the bill until next week and curbing a bipartisan push to keep constant help in kyiv.

The senator faced backlash over his opposition, but said he stood by his decision. “My oath of office is to the American Constitution, not to a foreign nation,” Paul tweeted Thursday evening, resuming his remarks on the floor of the Senate. While he said he sympathized with the Ukrainian people, Paul added that the United States ‘cannot continue to spend money that we don’t have’ because it ‘threatens our own national security’. .

The bill – which would send $39.8 billion in economic, humanitarian and defense aid to Ukraine – passed the House of Representatives this week with broad support. President Biden has said he wants it on his desk by the end of this week, with Washington trying to avoid a cut in funding to Ukraine as kyiv forces clash with the Russian military in the east and the south of the country. In a letter to lawmakers this month urging Congress to approve the aid package, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said remaining authorized aid funds would be depleted from here on May 19.

Paul was able to single-handedly block the package from advancing because the Senate needs unanimous consent to quickly push such a bill through to the final vote. Now the chamber has to jump through all the usual procedural hoops.

House approves nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine as it fights Russian aggression

Paul called for an inspector general to be appointed to oversee the funding, but rejected an offer from Senate leaders to hold an amendment vote on his provision. Changing the bill would have sent it back to the House.

In response, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said Paul’s position is at odds with the “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers in the chamber. “Again, all he will accomplish with his actions here today is to delay that help, not stop it,” Schumer added. “It is desperately needed aid to a valiant people fighting against authoritarianism and defending democracy.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted at a press conference Thursday that the bill already includes funding for existing inspectors general, as well as other oversight measures. She also reiterated Biden’s call to push the aid package through the legislative process.

Paul’s opposition drew disapproval at home and abroad. Olexander Scherba, former Ukrainian ambassador to Austria, said on Twitter that Paul’s decision amounted to a failure to defend Ukraine’s freedom. The Democratic candidate seeking to unseat Paul in this year’s election, Charles Booker, has also denounced its obstruction. Paul’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month, Paul told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that U.S. support for Ukraine’s NATO membership contributed to Russia’s decision to invade. The comment was seen as an echo of Russian talking points, leading to a clash with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and prompting rebukes from Russian observers.

Cheng reported from Seoul.

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