Senate Advances $40 Billion Ukraine Bill, Overruling Sen. Rand Paul’s Objections

The Senate on May 16 decided in a bipartisan vote to advance a $40 billion military aid package to Ukraine, invoking cloture on debate over the objections of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The 80–11 vote included the support of vast swaths of both parties; 11 Republicans voted against invoking cloture. The bill will now await a final vote in the Senate, which may come as early as May 18.

In comments on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decried Paul’s effort last week to block the legislation.

“Senator Paul’s obstruction of Ukraine funding is unacceptable, and only serves to strengthen Putin’s hand in the long run,” Schumer said.

“I would urge the senator from Kentucky to reconsider his objection,” Senate president pro tempore Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said later.

The bill, the latest in a series of billion-dollar aid packages to the European nation, was blocked by Paul on May 11, even though House and Senate leaders were unanimous in their agreement to proceed with passing the package.

Paul refused to advance the bill until changes were made to the legislation that would ensure an inspector general could monitor exactly how the billions of dollars were being spent. Ultimately, the Senate invoked cloture without making any changes to the final draft of the bill.

“My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation, and no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said on the Senate floor on May 12.

“We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy. … Gasoline alone is up 48 percent, and energy prices are up 32 percent over the last year. Food prices have increased by nearly 9 percent. Used vehicle prices are up 35 percent for the year, and new vehicle prices have increased 12 percent or more,” he continued.

Paul noted that inflation “doesn’t just come out of nowhere” while pointing to deficit spending, noting that the United States spent almost $5 trillion on “COVID-19 bailouts” which have led to sky-high inflation.

“Americans are feeling the pain, and Congress seems intent only on adding to that pain by shoveling more money out the door as fast as they can,” Paul said.

Following Paul’s successful effort to temporarily halt the bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Ukrainian leaders during a weekend visit to Kyiv that the bill would still pass with the support of an “overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress.”

Paul’s lone objection to the bill in the Senate was only the latest in a series of complications that have stalled its progress.

President Joe Biden originally requested a much smaller aid package on April 28.

Biden’s request included $20.4 billion in military assistance along with $8.5 billion in economic assistance. The package also included $3 billion in humanitarian assistance to address food shortages around the globe. Ultimately, the bill would have cost American taxpayers about $33 billion.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said during a live address on April 28. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”

Later, lawmakers added about $3.4 billion to the humanitarian and military aid components of the bill, but the legislation quickly got bogged down in partisan disputes.

Some Democrats hoped for the addition of about $10 billion in domestic COVID relief funding, which was opposed by Republicans, who cited billions of dollars of previously-allocated relief funds that had not been used.

On the other side, some Republicans pushed for an amendment to overturn Biden’s plan to end Title 42, a Trump-era COVID emergency policy allowing Border Patrol agents to turn back many of the illegal immigrants apprehended at the border.

Still, after a period of stalling, the $40 billion taxpayer-funded relief bill is expected to head to Biden’s desk by the end of the week.

From The Epoch Times