Rand Paul torments fellow Republicans again with blockade of aid to Israel

“If he doesn’t lift his grip, we just have to use the legislative process. There are probably over 90 votes for it, ”said frustrated Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.).

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the GOP-led hold-up made it more difficult for him to advocate for military aid to Israel, which is generally an uncontroversial exercise on Capitol Hill.

“It would be one thing that I cannot imagine for a member to create a problem,” Inhofe said of the Iron Dome, the highly effective system that prevents militant groups from striking inside Israel’s borders in destroying rockets in the air.

Paul frequently draws the wrath of his fellow Republicans, especially on matters relating to foreign policy. But this time his objections do not come from his anti-interventionist streak but from his long-standing fiscal conservatism. He came up with an alternative proposal that would fund the Iron Dome using foreign aid already earmarked for Afghanistan.

While Paul’s objection doesn’t entirely condemn the funding, the Kentucky Republican is the only one standing in the way of a quick presidential signing that would deploy the money this year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could get around the blockade by allowing himself time to pass the Iron Dome bill as part of the due process of the Senate, or lawmakers could tie him to draft bills. end of year law.

But Senate speaking time is hard to come by these days, especially as lawmakers are considering legislation to lift the debt ceiling as well as the two main items on President Joe Biden’s national agenda. – and that’s only this month. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said he did not trust Democratic leaders to move the bill quickly through the chamber because Paul remains the only obstacle to a clean finance mechanism.

“There is a lot of incompetence here to get things done,” lamented Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“It’s actually amazing how a problem that enjoys such bipartisan support can be scuttled by so few,” he added. “And so, I don’t know – there are people here who are deeply, deeply rooted on the wrong side of this issue.”

Funding for Iron Dome, which formed as a stand-alone measure after House Liberals forced it to withdraw from larger government funding, cleared the lower house with more than 400 votes on last month. And 99 senators supported speeding up the bill and sending it to Biden’s office – but swift passage requires the support of all 100 senators, and Paul opposed it.

Paul is no stranger to stoking dissent among his GOP colleagues, which has drawn strong criticism for forcing the government to shut down in 2018 because of his drive to cut spending. But Paul, a libertarian at heart, often wears it as a badge of honor as he slams “big government Republicans” for voting to increase spending levels.

This time around, Paul maintains he supports the Iron Dome but wants to offset the cost of the bill by using money that he said risked going to the Taliban, who now control Afghanistan.

“Since the Democrats oppose him being paid, they have created a deadlock,” Paul said in a brief interview, adding that all 50 Republican senators had consented to his counter-offer.

Democrats reject this characterization, noting that all 50 members of the Democratic caucus have agreed to speed up Iron Dome legislation.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (DN.J.), who sought unanimous approval of the bill earlier this week in the Senate, credited Paul for his consistency on budget issues federal government, but warned that his counter-proposal could jeopardize humanitarian action. aid to Afghans.

“This negotiation is unattainable in terms of compensation,” Menendez said. “It’s ridiculous.”

GOP leaders maintained that the whole dispute was preventable from the start. They claimed Democrats should have tied the Iron Dome money to the government’s interim finance bill that cleared both houses by an overwhelming majority last week – the same movement that progressives in the House fought against. The resulting stand-alone Iron Dome bill, however, still enjoys broad Republican support.

“It’s his prerogative to put the plug on, so I’m not going to tell him what to do. My position is not to make this key national security investment dependent on compensation, ”said Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Meanwhile, Paul’s fiscal hawk colleagues have said they are supportive of his position, but ultimately concluded that funding should not be delayed.

“I am still in favor of paying the expenses, but I think funding for the Iron Dome is a critical national security priority,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a brief interview.

“Paying for stuff – we’re not doing it on anything here,” added Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Who consistently votes against expense bills that don’t include compensation. “And we need to improve, and that’s the topic of this larger discussion right now.”

As for the prospects of getting the funding quickly using the regular Senate process, some Democrats think it could wait. Meanwhile, Schumer has yet to telegraph his plan to break the deadlock.

“It doesn’t necessarily change anything in practice if it takes us until the end of the year,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Who supports the legislation. “We just have to be honest that this isn’t really the spending Israel is going to use in this calendar year. “

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