Congress Must Pass $40B Bill by Thursday to Maintain Ukraine Aid
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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has apparently interrupted the Pentagon's plans of fortifying the Ukrainian armed forces on a regular schedule, as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war approaches a third full month.
On Tuesday, the senator blocked a proposed $40 billion Ukraine supplemental aid package. And on Friday, Pentagon officials countered by saying the package must garner approval by next Thursday, or the schedule for sending Ukraine weapons might hit a snag.
"May 19 is the day we really — without additional authorities — we begin to not have the ability to send new stuff in," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. "It'll start impacting our ability to provide aid uninterrupted."
Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reportedly sent a letter to House and Senate leadership asking for the money by Thursday, "if we are to continue our security assistance at the current pace."
And therein lies the crux of Paul's blocking rationale: He's demanding more oversight of the aid packages being sent to Ukraine, along with a detailed account of where the money is going.
There are other reasons the Pentagon might be feeling a time pinch.
Of its $3.5 billion in "drawdown authority" funds — approved in March as part of the $1.5 trillion government funding bill — the Pentagon says that fund has only about $100 million in nonallocated money remaining.
Kirby added that the Senate needs "to act as quickly as possible so we don't get to the end of May and not have any additional authorities to draw back, to draw upon."
"If we don't get those authorities soon ... it's possible that there could be a bubble — a period of time in which, you know, there's just nothing moving, and we want to make sure we avoid that."
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "We all agree the most important thing in the world right now is the [Russian] war with Ukraine."
But a recent Pew Research Center survey — which predated news of America's baby formula shortage — chronicled the public's 12 most pressing issues heading into the November midterm elections.
Leading the way, topics such as the U.S. economy, inflation, immigration, education, violent crime and the job market.
The Russia-Ukraine war, however, did not make the top 12.
Paul, who is seeking reelection this year, faces five challengers in Kentucky's GOP primary on Tuesday.