Frustrated Republicans accuse Paul of forcing pointless shutdown

Greg Nash

Frustrated Senate Republicans lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) early Friday for refusing to speed up a budget deal and forcing a temporary government shutdown.

GOP senators, from leadership to rank and file, accused the libertarian-leaning lawmaker of wasting the chamber’s time by delaying an agreement that ultimately passed in the early hours of Friday morning.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, warned Paul during a heated back-and-forth on the Senate floor that he would be to blame for shutting down the government.

“I don’t know why we are basically burning time here while the senator from Kentucky and others are sitting in the cloakroom wasting everybody’s time and inconveniencing the staff,” he said. 

Cornyn added that Paul, who rejected several attempts by Republicans to move up the budget debate, “will effectively shut down the federal government for no real reason.” 


Paul leveraged the Senate’s rules to delay an initial vote on the two-year budget deal until nearly 1 a.m. on Friday as he tried to get a vote on his amendment to keep spending caps in place.

Congress needed to pass the budget deal, which also includes a stopgap funding bill, by midnight in order to avoid a government shutdown. But under Senate rules, any individual senator was able to drag out the fight. 

Cornyn said that Paul’s tactics were “grossly irresponsible” and GOP leadership wouldn’t “reward bad behavior.” 

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, called the hours-long delay a “colossal waste of everyone’s time.”

“Well, he never gets a result. But he always — what can you say?” Thune told reporters as he headed toward the Senate chamber to vote shortly after 1 a.m.

Leadership had offered to let Paul raise a budget point of order, which would have also gotten him a roll call vote. But the Kentucky Republican continued to push for — and ultimately failed to get — an amendment vote arguing his party needed to confront its spending habits. 

“When Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. … The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty,” Paul said.

Not everyone ripped the GOP senator. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leading figure in the 2013 shutdown over ObamaCare, said he always has a “kind word” for Paul, adding “Rand’s a good man.” 

And Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), another libertarian-leaning lawmaker, fired back at Cornyn over Twitter, saying his comments referring to Paul’s stance as “bad behavior” were “arrogant.”

“It speaks volumes about his ‘leadership’ that he views public debate on one of the largest spending increases in history as ‘bad behavior.’ Congress needs new leaders who respect the legislative process,” Amash added. 

But frustration with Paul united senators from both parties as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for the overnight vote.  

“I once again fail to see the point of what Sen. Paul is doing. This has been an experience I have had many times in our seven years together. He is a wonderful colleague who has mastered the art of ticking off his colleagues,” said Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.).

Several GOP senators tried to speed up the votes in order to beat the midnight deadline, but were ultimately unsuccessful. 

“You can make a point all you want but points are forgotten. There aren’t a lot of history books written about the great points of the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). 

Paul blocked two requests by Tillis to speed up the vote on the budget agreement. 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who presided over parts of the floor debate, said the looming shutdown was an example of the “total dysfunction” and “ridiculous” but blamed both sides. 

“I don’t know why we didn’t vote on his amendment. It would have been … the right thing to do. But at the same time he’s not getting a vote. It kind of seems ridiculous to, you know, shut down the government for even an hour or two,” he said. 

Paul has been on and off the Senate floor outlining his objections to the Senate budget deal for hours. 

The two-year budget agreement would increase the budget caps by roughly $300 billion and also raise the debt ceiling through March 2019. It also includes a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open through March 23, which would give lawmakers time to draft a longer spending bill.

Asked about the standoff, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) quipped: “I’m just having a ball. Just having a ball. Living the dream.”

Updated: 3:25 a.m. 

Tags Christopher Coons John Cornyn John Thune Johnny Isakson Justin Amash Rand Paul Ron Johnson Ted Cruz Thom Tillis

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