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Inside Conservatives’ Effort to Stop Another Ukraine War Package

Fresh off the Senate floor from his talking filibuster, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky spoke with The American Conservative.

Senate Continues Debate On Foreign Aid Package As It Moves Closer To Passage

Conservative senators are not rolling over in the face of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to jam billions of dollars of Ukraine aid through the legislature’s upper chamber.

On Saturday, Senator Mike Lee of Utah occupied the Senate floor for nearly four hours in a talking filibuster. Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio pulled back the curtain on McConnell’s motivations for forcing through the $95 billion supplemental in a Monday piece for The American Conservative. “Nearly a year away from an election that could give Trump the presidency,” Vance wrote, “Ukraine-obsessive Republicans have already given the Democrats a predicate to impeach him.”

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On Monday afternoon, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky launched a talking filibuster of his own. “Open the champagne, pop the cork. The Senate Democrat leader and the Republican leader are on their way to Kiev. They’ve got $60 billion they’re bringing. I don’t know if it will be cash in pallets, but they’re taking your money to Kiev,” Paul said in his speech that lasted over an hour. Fresh off the Senate floor, Paul spoke to TAC.

Paul explained what is motivating him and his senate colleagues engaging in this talking filibuster. “We have so many problems to deal with in our country and along our border that we shouldn’t be prioritizing another nation’s border without first fixing our own border,” Paul told TAC in a phone interview. 

Shortly after Paul’s time came to a close, Vance took the baton to continue the talking filibuster, which has now spanned over 120 hours. 

Paul, like many of his conservative colleagues, is concerned about the national debt as well. The Kentucky senator noted the U.S. is currently running a deficit of $1.5 trillion annually. While $95 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $34 trillion debt, it is exactly this kind of uniparty spending and governance over time that has made sending $95 billion overseas seem inconsequential.

“Our debt is rising at an alarming rate,” Paul explained. “The Federal Reserve Chairman this week said it’s urgent that we do something about the debt, and yet the urgency falls on deaf ears. The urgency to Schumer, McConnell and Biden is to send another $100 billion overseas, when in reality that just makes our debt problem worse.”

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“Shouldn’t we try to fix our own country first?” Paul asked his senate colleagues on Monday. In Sunday’s vote, 18 Republicans joined 47 Democrats and two independents to shut down further debate and advance the legislation. The final tally was 67–27 with all the no votes coming from the GOP conference.

Nevertheless, senate rules triggered a 30-hour clock for speaking on the floor after the senate voted to advance the legislation Sunday. “We have 30 hours of speaking, but the rules in the senate are very specific. Each senator can only speak for one hour.” Paul explained over the phone.

That makes organizing a speaking filibuster tricky. “We have a string of speakers speaking up to an hour. Mike Lee and I spoke earlier. We have a few minutes left. I think he has eight minutes left and I have 17 minutes left. If there’s a lapse in the floor and the vote hasn’t been called, both Mike Lee and I will go back to the floor and speak again.”

If there is a lapse in the talking filibuster before time is set to run out at 8:00 pm Monday, Democrats will move to end the filibuster and end debate. Nevertheless, that vote will trigger yet another 30 hour period. “It becomes a little tougher at night because you still get your one hour, but you got to get as many senators as you can to speak through the middle of the night,” Paul said.

Paul and his colleagues are fully aware they are not going to be able to permanently stop the Senate from passing the $95 billion supplemental.

“The reason for the talking filibuster is not that we’re going to win. They have the votes to win,” Paul said. “We’re causing them to ultimately expend seven days. We’ve made them be here on the weekend if they want to take our money and ship it to another country. The punishment we can inflict is we keep them here on the weekend; we keep them from campaigning; we keep them from fundraising.”

Because the Senate has been forced to work over the weekend, the talking filibuster isn’t winning the conservative objectors many friends. Some, Paul said , have been “hateful in private.”

“Some will come up to you and insinuate you’re doing this for unclean reasons, or you’re not doing this for any kind of moral reason, or you’re doing this to grandstand,” Paul said. “Then there’s all kinds of accusations you’re doing this to raise money.”

While the talking filibuster is unlikely to cause senators to change how they are voting on the supplemental, Paul suggested it could become a rallying point for the grassroots. “I think the vast majority of Republicans and conservatives across the country disagree with Mitch McConnell on this,” Paul added. “They would be horrified to find out Republican leaders are sending their money overseas while ignoring their own border. 

Paul claimed this was the “uniparty” at work in his Monday speech. “Really, there only is one party when you get down to it,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “This is a secret you’re not supposed to expose in Washington.”

“The reason they’re trying to get this done is Chuck Schumer has a trip planned to Kiev. They’re going to crack champagne with Zelensky and celebrate with pallets of cash,” Paul told TAC. “I’ve sort of sarcastically said, ‘I wonder who’s paying for the champagne.’ I guess we’re paying for the champagne, too.”

After a few more procedural votes, the Senate is expected to pass the $95 billion supplemental on Wednesday, but there are no guarantees that the Republican-controlled House decides to take up the legislation. TAC asked Paul what his message is for the House GOP members who will likely be considering the supplemental very soon. “Don’t!” he replied.

What can voters do? “They all need to call Speaker Johnson and their congressman and say, ‘Do not vote on this monstrosity. Do not send our money overseas and fix our border first.’”

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