Rand Paul Holds the Line
State of the Union: Amidst shutdown fears, Rand Paul held the line on Ukraine.
On September 20, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was carrying out the normal business of any U.S. Senator, delivering a speech on the Senate floor. Most speeches on the floor go without much fanfare. Some are posted by Senators’ communications teams on social media; few go viral.
But Paul’s speech on September 20 did manage to turn heads. On the Senate floor, Paul vowed to not support any measure to avoid a government shutdown that contained further aid to Ukraine. “I will not consent to any expedited passage of any spending bill that provides any more American aid to Ukraine,” the Senator from Kentucky said. Establishment leadership, Paul claimed, was “saying the only way government stays open, the only way we avoid a shutdown, is by shuffling more, shoveling more, taxpayer dollars to Ukraine.”
“They’re going to link keeping the government open with more money to Ukraine and I’m here to say that I am not going to agree to it and I will not let them shut down the government simply because they want to send more of your hard earned tax dollars to Ukraine. Either the American people fund an endless war in Ukraine or the Uniparty threatens to shut down the government. This is a clear dereliction of duty, and I will not stand for it.”
Paul paired his speech with an article in The American Conservative titled, “The Federal Government Should Not Be Held Hostage for Ukraine Funding.” Paul wrote: “As elected officials, we have an obligation to pursue a foreign policy that advances the security and prosperity of the American people. Funneling billions of dollars into the meatgrinder in eastern Ukraine does neither.”
For Paul, it was the latest in a string of efforts since the war in Ukraine began to hold the warmongers of the dead consensus attempting to relive their Cold War glory days accountable. In September of 2022, when the Senate was considering a continuing resolution that ultimately led to the disastrous lame duck omnibus, Paul warned Republicans about failing to provide adequate oversight on funds and equipment doled out to Ukraine and proposed an amendment that acted as the precursor to the Ukraine Aid Oversight Act.
In the months following Paul’s warning, it became increasingly clear that Ukrainian officials were using funds in corrupt schemes to enrich themselves and friends. Some of Ukraine’s high-ranking regional military officers purchased luxury cars and Spanish villas in the midst of Russia's invasion. The news came as a shock only to those completely unfamiliar with Ukraine’s recent history that is full of corruption, which just so happens to often be the most ardent supporters of continued Ukrainian aid.
In July, Paul introduced the Ukraine Aid Oversight Act, which would extend the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) oversight to aid the American regime was shelling out to Ukraine.
“A little over a year ago, I proposed an amendment to the massive $40 billion Ukraine spending package that would have entrusted a proven and effective Inspector General to oversee and track how funds are spent in Ukraine,,” Paul said upon introducing the bill. “My Ukraine Aid Oversight Act would extend SIGAR’s oversight authority to include aid to Ukraine and provide taxpayers with an accurate accounting of how their money is spent, as well as to detect and prevent waste and fraud.” Paul offered the Ukraine Aid Oversight Act as an amendment to the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but it was rejected.
Despite these seeming failures, Paul’s persistence throughout the war in Ukraine has empowered other conservative Senators to reject establishment leadership’s attempts to attach Ukraine funding to other spending, which is precisely what happened as the government neared a shutdown last month.
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After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a deal with the Biden White House to add billions more in funding for Ukraine in a bill to temporarily fund the government, other Senators circumvented the Republican leader to find a possible solution that would not include funding for Ukraine. Because McConnell’s proposal was dead on arrival in the Republican controlled House, thanks to a growing contingent of Ukraine-skeptical members, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida coordinated with then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to swap funding for Ukraine with disaster relief. “Republicans listened and coordinated our efforts with the House,” Scott said of his efforts.
Nevertheless, McConnell kept pushing for Ukraine funding, threatening to hold the U.S. government hostage if his conference didn’t agree to also fund a foreign government. But, thanks to Paul’s example, a small cohort of conservative senators held the line. As Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri put it, “Senate leadership tried to get Ukraine jammed into the CR and they just got bucked. McConnell negotiated it in the CR. And he couldn’t carry the caucus.”
There are plenty of Republican Senators eagerly awaiting their next opportunity to fork billions over to Ukraine. Hopefully, the likes of Paul and other conservative senators will continue to do what they can to stop it.