A unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate, needed to bypass parliamentary hurdles and approve a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, has been blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has demanded an independent overseer to monitor fund spending, the New York Times reported on May 12.
The aid package is meant to strengthen Ukraine's defenses in the face of an ongoing Russian invasion, now in its 79th day, but will not be on U.S. President Joe Biden's desk this week due to Paul’s objections.
The NYT reports that Paul’s objection is rooted in concerns about soaring inflation in the United States, which the senator has blamed on repeated deficit spending. However, this most recent bout of inflation is more likely due to a combination of supply shortages caused by the pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has imposed both agricultural shortages and sanctions pressure across the global economy.
Congress is said to have acted with extraordinary speed and bipartisan solidarity after Biden warned that aid to Ukraine is likely to stop next week without a new influx of funds. In a rare show of bipartisanship, both majority leader Chuck Schumer and minority leader Mitch McConnell co-promoted the bill.
If the Senate eventually adopts Paul's amendment or makes any other amendments, the bill will be returned to the House of Representatives for another vote before Biden can sign it. This will introduce at least a week of delays, despite warnings that further delays should be avoided, the White House has warned.
Paul — known for his pro-Russian statements — has drawn criticism from both parties for his stance, with Schumer accusing Paul of working to cause “total and permanent paralysis” in the Senate. The majority leader also noted that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle took issue with Paul’s proposed changes to the aid package.
“(The Ukrainians are) running out of ammo,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, when urging his recalcitrant colleague to reconsider his objection.
“They’re kicking the Russians’ ass. All over Ukraine, they’re doing the fighting on behalf of freedom itself, and we should be the arsenal of democracy.”
The package provides for $6 billion in security assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and support: $8.7 billion to replenish stocks of American equipment sent to Ukraine, and $3.9 billion for European Command operations.
In addition, the bill would allow for an additional $11 billion for the presidential withdrawal authority, which allows the U.S. President to approve the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency. Biden had initially asked for only $5 billion.
The aid package would also authorize $4 billion in foreign military funding to support Ukraine and other countries affected by Russia’s invasion.