Thomas Jefferson, among others, is credited for saying, “one man with courage is a majority.” If the one man is a US Senator and an issue before the Senate requires “unanimous consent,” it becomes literally true. Yesterday, that aphorism was played out on the floor of the Senate as the speeding freight train of a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.
The massive appropriation bill cleared the House Tuesday. In what has become a common procedure for mammoth multi-billion dollar spending bills, there were no briefings by the executive branch on the proposed use of the money, no subcommittee or committee hearings, no debate, and no opportunity for members even to read the bill. Texas Representative Chip Roy didn’t sit idly by, but a single representative can’t slow down a determined House majority (see Chip Roy Delivers a Rebuke of the $40B Ukraine Slush Fund Bill Everyone Should See) even if that majority is led by a visibly addled Nancy Pelosi (Pelosi’s Reason Why Americans Should Support $40 Billion for Ukraine Defies Belief).
When the bill arrived in the Senate, it met a different fate.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate tried to fast track a nearly $40 billion U.S. aid package to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia, only to be blocked by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, pushing passage of the bill into next week.Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) came to the chamber floor together to request unanimous agreement from all 100 senators to allow a vote on the bill immediately.Mr. Paul objected. Without his consent to move more quickly, Mr. Schumer scheduled the first in a series of procedural votes for Monday afternoon to move the bill toward final passage late next week.
My colleague, Sarah Lee, has more on the story in her post titled Rand Paul Can’t Stop the $40 Billion Bound for Ukraine, but He Can Stall It (And He Did).
Paul took to Twitter to explain his vote.
All I requested is an amendment to be included in the final bill that allows for the Inspector General to oversee how funds are spent. Anyone who is opposed to this is irresponsible.
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 13, 2022
It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula.
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 13, 2022
To anyone reading my posts, it will be no surprise when I say that I am 100% behind the United States and NATO supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression. (You’ll also see that I can’t be classified as a Rand Paul fan, either.) Furthermore, I am in favor of providing Ukraine with equipment and training that will allow the Ukrainian Armed Forces to overmatch the Russians in the current war or any future war. What the war has demonstrated, in my view, is that any attempt to treat Russia as a responsible trade and security partner is not merely ill-advised; it is profoundly stupid. It is a dangerous mad dog, and the rest of the world needs to treat it as such.
I think there have been some unfair criticisms directed at our aid to Ukraine; my colleague Nick Arama covers some here, Troubling Questions About How Many of Our Weapons Are Going to Ukraine and If They’re Getting to Frontlines.
For instance, sending most of our Stinger and Javelin inventory to Ukraine is a blessing. We don’t need them right now, and the only possible enemy we would need to use them against in large quantities is getting its ass kicked by the same weapons. Both weapons systems need upgrading. The Stinger MANPADS is so old that Raytheon can no longer manufacture them because the components don’t exist.
Raytheon chief warns of delays in replenishing Stinger missile stocks https://t.co/JMShO7ZDtC
Quote: CEO of Raytheon Technologies told investors Tuesday that the company won’t be able to ramp up production of Stinger missiles until 2023, due to a lack of parts and materials.
— Amy Bean (@YesThatTrinity) April 26, 2022
The Javelin production lines are mothballed. Starting production to refill war stocks will let Stinger and Javelin undergo a redesign and bring the production facilities back on line. I’ll admit, control of weapons, once you sell/transfer them, is a dicey issue. My gut feeling is that the fear and panic about the illegal movement of these weapons, and more capable ones like the British NLAW and Starstreak, is overblown. And, quite honestly, unless you advocate sending inventory control clerks onto Ukrainian battlefields to hand out the weapons as needed, the only other solution is not sending any weapons at all.
That said, the slapdash and dishonest way the aid to Ukraine is being managed will, in the long run, do much more damage to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and rebuild after the war than any short-term good. Because you know as well as I do that the same people yammering about George Soros and corruption will claim the money was lost to Ukrainian oligarchs when it is all going to US contractors, primarily defense industry contractors.
The defense industry is not only banking on the ramp-up of stinger missile and javelin production, but all the justified new future military spending due to the #Ukraine war, too. @WilliamHartung @JuliaGledhill add it up: https://t.co/3SkYogojTq
— Responsible Statecraft (@RStatecraft) April 19, 2022
Forty billion dollars is a crap ton of money. We appropriated $19 billion for the same purpose just two months ago. How the hell can it have been spent in a prudent and effective manner? Has anyone bothered to look at what that first bill purchased in relation to what this one does?
When this new bill passes Congress, it means that since February, we have matched Russia’s annual defense budget, dollar-for-dollar, in our aid to Ukraine.
The US has Congress has voted to fund Ukraine's military at nearly the level of the Russian defense budget. pic.twitter.com/ImbPew5mpA
— streiff (@streiffredstate) May 13, 2022
There is no way possible that programs can spend that amount of money wisely. Worse than that, there will be no incentive to do so. Appropriating this amount of money without creating and funding an inspector general organization dedicated to monitoring the expenditures is just begging for waste, fraud, and abuse. As abuse stories trickle out, the political price will not be borne by Pelosi and Schumer and McConnell who tried to rubberstamp this massive spending spree; it will be Ukraine two or three years in the future when help is really needed, and all anyone recalls is the $40 billion boondoggle that Joe Biden rammed through Congress as he tried to use to save his presidency.
The messaging to Russia that we’re willing to spend as much money as it takes to beat you might be powerful, but the perception that we are willing to accept food shortages, supply chain breakdowns, a crashing stock market, double-digit inflation, and home loan interest rates doubling while spending $40 on a foreign war.
Rand Paul and Chip Roy are correct. Not only is this monstrous spending bill terrible economic policy and, I think, bad defense policy, but it is also contributing to Congress’s drift towards being a rubber stamp for Democrat presidents. It is wrong, and it needs to stop.