Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hit the brakes Thursday on bipartisan hopes that the Senate could quickly pass nearly $40 billion in Ukraine aid before leaving town for the week.
Paul objected to a deal offered by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would have set up votes on Thursday afternoon on the funding and on an amendment from Paul, who wanted to include language in the bill to expand an Afghanistan inspector general role to include oversight of the Ukraine funds.
Paul blocked the votes because he wants his language inserted into the text of the bill instead of having to take his chance with an amendment vote, which could be blocked. The stalemate will delay the Senate’s passage of the Ukraine package until at least next week, and potentially beyond.
“I think they’re going to have to go through the long way,” Paul told The Hill about what comes next after the floor standoff.
The roadblock comes after senators and staff haggled privately for hours on Thursday to try to find a path toward passing the Ukraine aid before they wrapped up their work for the week. Senators were also eager to avoid making changes to the bill, which would require it to go back to the House for a second vote.
Though senators say they were told during closed-door lunches to hang around, by mid-afternoon members of leadership and senators were spotted leaving the Capitol.
Schumer and McConnell then appeared on the Senate floor to try to set up votes on the Ukraine aid. Under the Senate’s rules any one senator can try to quickly set up a vote or pass a bill, but it only takes one senator to object.
Under the deal offered by Schumer and McConnell, the Senate would have first voted on stand-alone legislation from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) to establish a special inspector general for the Ukraine aid.
After that the Senate would have taken up the $40 billion in Ukraine assistance, with a vote on Paul’s amendment. To get included in the Ukraine assistance, Paul’s proposal would have needed 60 votes.
“There is now only one thing holding us back, the junior senator from Kentucky is preventing swift passage of Ukraine aid because he wants to add, at the last minute, his own changes directly into the bill … He is not even asking for an amendment. He is simply saying my way or the highway,” Schumer said.
“I’m offering to hold a vote on his amendment, even though I disagree with it. Let the chamber speak its will. Let both sides of the aisle have input and for heaven’s sake, let Ukraine funding get done ASAP,” Schumer added.
McConnell had signaled that he wanted to get the Ukraine package passed on Thursday. He added that while he understood that Paul wanted to change the bill that the “simple way to solve this” was to have a vote on Paul’s amendment and then a vote on the Ukraine aid, as Schumer offered.
“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 help right now,” McConnell said.
Paul, however, warned about the pace of spending, arguing that “we cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”
“Americans are feeling the pain [from inflation] and Congress seems intent only on adding to that pain by shoveling more money out the door as fast as they can,” Paul said.