The U.S. Senate on May 19 voted to pass a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, overruling the objections of a few scattered Republican voices who opposed the bill.
President Joe Biden originally requested a much smaller aid package on April 28.
Biden’s request included $20.4 billion in military assistance along with $8.5 billion in economic assistance. The package also included $3 billion in humanitarian assistance to address food shortages around the globe. Ultimately, the proposal would have cost American taxpayers about $33 billion.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said during a live address on April 28. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”
Later, lawmakers added about $3.4 billion to the humanitarian and military aid components of the bill, but the legislation quickly got bogged down in partisan disputes.
The bill, the latest in a series of billion-dollar aid packages to the European nation, was blocked by Paul on May 11, even though House and Senate leaders were unanimous in their agreement to proceed with passing the package.
Paul refused to advance the bill until changes were made to it that would ensure an inspector general could monitor exactly how the billions of dollars were being spent.
“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 on the Senate floor on May 12.
“We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy. ... Gasoline alone is up 48 percent, and energy prices are up 32 percent over the last year. Food prices have increased by nearly 9 percent. Used vehicle prices are up 35 percent for the year, and new vehicle prices have increased 12 percent or more.”
Paul noted that inflation “doesn’t just come out of nowhere,” pointing to deficit spending, noting that the United States spent almost $5 trillion on “COVID-19 bailouts,” which has led to sky-high levels of inflation.
“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.
Following Paul’s successful effort to temporarily halt the bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Ukrainian leaders during a weekend visit to Kyiv that the bill would still pass with the support of an “overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress.”
In comments on May 15 following his visit to Ukraine, McConnell denounced Paul as an "isolationist."
"There have always been isolationist voices in the Republican Party," McConnell said. "I think one of the lessons we learned in World War II is not standing up to aggression early is a huge mistake."
Though Democrats have been consistent in their support for sending aid to Ukraine, some Republicans in both chambers of Congress have urged caution as the U.S. national debt creeps toward $30.5 trillion and the federal spending deficit exceeds $2 trillion per year.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) shared similar concerns in an interview with Fox News the weekend before the final vote.
“I certainly don’t have anything against the Ukrainians," he said. "We want to see them win, but pumping more aid into that country when we’re not taking care of our own country—the best thing that Biden could do is stop the war that he’s waged on American industry."
When the same bill came to the House last week, 57 Republicans opposed the bill, expressing concerns over the cost and focus of the bill as Americans grapple with an array of domestic issues.
However, Democrats and many Republicans have treated the aid as essential to stave off further aggression by Russia and other U.S. adversaries.
"Ukraine needs all the help it can get, and, at the same time, we need all the assets we can put together to give Ukraine the aid it needs," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of the bill earlier in May.
"It is a shame that because of the actions of one Senator we could not pass this urgently needed bill, which will receive overwhelming bipartisan support, last week. To confront Vladimir Putin on the global stage, we must stand united."
The aid bill was approved just days after Ukrainian forces surrendered to Russia in Mariupol, effectively ending the 82-day armed conflict between the two nations and marking a significant defeat for Ukraine.
In a statement, the White House applauded the Senate’s passage of the bill.
“I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world that the people of the United States stand together with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom,” Biden said.
“The resources that I requested will allow us to send even more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, replenish our own stockpile, and support U.S. troops stationed on NATO territory.
“These weapons and equipment will go directly to the front lines of freedom in Ukraine, and reiterate our strong support for the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country against Russia’s ongoing aggression.”