The U.S. Senate voted to invoke cloture this past Monday, setting up a vote on the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine for later this week. Monday’s procedural vote passed with a final tally of 81 to 11, with all 11 “no” votes coming from Republicans.
Cloture is a procedure often seen with judicial nominees that limits further debate on a given topic to 30 hours.
The bill, which had been overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives in a 368-57 vote last Tuesday, faced a roadblock in the Senate last week at the hands of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
Senator Paul proposed an amendment to the bill, which would have installed an inspector general to report exactly how the money was used.
He explained his reasoning during last Thursday’s Senate floor debate.
“My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation, and 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 U.S. economy,” he continued. “Gasoline alone is up 48%, and energy prices are up 32% over the last year. Food prices have increased by nearly 9%. Used vehicle prices are up 35% for the year, and new vehicle prices have increased 12% or more.”
Paul noted that inflation “doesn’t just come out of nowhere,” singling out deficit spending as its primary source. He pointed out that the United States spent almost $5 trillion on “COVID-19 bailouts,” which led to sky-high inflation levels.
“Americans are feeling the pain, and Congress seems intent only on adding to that pain by shoveling more money out the door as fast as they can,” Paul said.
However, Paul’s amendment was rejected. Any change to the bill would have forced the House to vote on the package again. Instead, Paul used Senate rules to force a delay in the vote until this week.
Although members of Congress did not appear to approve of Paul’s actions, outside organizations have taken to Twitter to express their support. The Concerned Veterans of America praised Paul on Twitter, which Paul himself later retweeted.
“With record inflation, over $30T in national debt, and no clear strategy from the Biden Admin, is an additional $40B in aid to Ukraine in our nation’s interests? Thank you to Sen. [Rand Paul] and others for demanding answers to this important question,” the organization wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was in Kyiv over the weekend after Paul forced a delay in the vote. However, he promised Ukrainian leaders that the bill would still pass with the support of an “overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress.”
He stated that he intended to invoke cloture on Monday, which came to fruition.
“We expect to invoke cloture – hopefully by a significant margin – on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday,” McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm, Sweden, after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday.
President Biden had asked Congress to approve $33 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, including $20 billion in military spending. The House of Representatives increased that amount to $39.8 billion, boosting both the humanitarian and military sides.
The funding in the bill is expected to last until the end of September. Since President Biden and Congress were both advised that the Russian military action in Ukraine could last for years, there will likely be more aid bills in the years to come.