United States Senator Rand Paul has single-handedly delayed the passage of a $40bn aid package for Ukraine.
The allocation of funds has bipartisan support in the Senate and it was passed in the US House of Representatives earlier this week. It is also supported by President Joe Biden, with his administration warning the remaining authorised funds for Ukraine would run out by May 19.
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s highest-ranking Republican, said on Thursday. “It bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrat, accused Paul of making “reckless demands”.
“The package is ready to go, the vast majority of senators on both sides of the aisle want it,” he said.
For his part, Paul has demanded the legislation be altered to include an inspector general to oversee spending on Ukraine. He denied an offer to hold a vote on the amendment, which was all but assured to fail, but instead refused to support swiftly bringing the aid package to a final vote.
Under Senate rules, unanimous consent among legislators is required to bypass lengthy procedural steps that can delay the passage of legislation.
“No matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy.”
Paul has argued that the massive sum is more than the US spends on many domestic programmes and would deepen federal deficits while worsening inflation.
While supporters of the legislation have contested that characterisation, the approval would represent a massive increase in US military and economic aid abroad.
When combined with the $13.6bn Congress approved in March, the latest package would push US aid to the region well above $50bn. That is $6bn more than the US spent on military and economic aid around the world in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The latest measure includes $6bn for Ukraine for intelligence, equipment and training for its forces, plus $4bn in financing to help Kyiv and NATO allies build up their militaries.
It also includes $8.7bn for the Pentagon to rebuild stocks of weapons it has shipped to Ukraine and $3.9bn for US troops in the region, as well as $8.8bn to keep the Kyiv government functioning, more than $5bn to provide food to countries around the world that rely on Ukrainian crops devastated by the fighting and $900m to teach English and provide other services to Ukrainian refugees who have moved to the US.
The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on the bill for late Monday afternoon, with its earliest passage expected to be next week.
On Twitter, Olexander Scherba, the former Ukrainian ambassador to Austria, decried Paul as a “Putinterian conservative”.
“What amazes me is the amount of understanding [Paul] brings for Putin, but not for defending Ukraine’s liberty,” he wrote.