Rand Paul is taking a stand, consequences be damned.
The Kentucky Republican is on course to drive the government into a brief government shutdown over his demands for an amendment to slash government spending, annoying his colleagues with his latest one-man assault on the federal budget. And the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Thursday evening that he will not consent to congressional leaders’ plan to avert a shutdown at midnight without a vote on his amendment.
Asked if he’s worried about singlehandedly inheriting the blame, he replied: “No. I think it’s an important enough thing that we should have a discussion over.”
“Somebody’s got to stand up and fight,” Paul said.
The Senate needs consent from all 100 senators to hold a vote before the midnight funding deadline, and Paul is refusing to grant it without a vote on his amendment.Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no plans to allow a vote on his amendment, which would force Congress to adhere to strict budget caps, according to senators and aides. The dispute seemed assured to provoke a brief shutdown as midnight drew near.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Paul is waging his fight “probably to help Rand Paul.”
“He has every right to do it. And we’re going to stare him down, we’re going to fund the military,” Graham said. “I won’t question his motives. I’m sure he’s sincere.”
McConnell, Graham and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) tried repeatedly to set up a vote before the shutdown deadline. Each time, Paul objected, much to Tillis’ frustration.
“Do you want to be a senator that wants to make a point or you want to make a difference? You know what? I don’t see how points alone can make a change in America,” Tillis fumed on the Senate floor. “You can make a point all you want. But points are forgotten. There’s not a whole of history books about the great points of the American Senate.”
Despite the celebration among lawmakers in both parties about the massive $300 billion budget deal reached Wednesday, leaders miscalculated by waiting until the last minute and hoping Paul would go along. The result could be the second government shutdown in a period of three weeks, though it would likely be brief. The House is expected to vote sometime Friday morning.
“I’m not advocating for shutting down the government. I’m also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute. This is reckless spending that is out of control,” Paul said on Fox News.
Some of Paul’s colleagues said they were less concerned because of the short nature of the expected shutdown.
“I would be more critical if I thought this was shutting down government for a period of time,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
Paul’s one-man bout of brinkmanship is just the latest lonely stand for the libertarian-leaning senator who’s briefly caused a shutdown of surveillance programs, opposed Republican budgets and upset leaders’ plans to repeal Obamacare last year. But Paul said his colleagues’ budget deal is causing uncertainty in the stock market and stated that “this country is going to hell in a hand basket” with such profligate spending.
With a grim expression on his face, McConnell pleaded with senators to accept a procedural vote and allow the Senate to move a deal that President Donald Trump backs.
“The president of the United States supports the bill and is waiting to sign it into law. I understand my friend and colleague from Kentucky does not join the president in supporting the bill,” McConnell said. “It’s his right, of course, to vote against the bill. But I would argue that it’s time to vote.”
Paul insisted McConnell was not angry with him.
“We get along fine,” Paul said.
Two Republican senators said they expected Paul to eventually relent after making a large production of his objections. Yet Paul said that he’ll hold up passage of a vote until around 2 a.m. in the morning to make his point. Senate rules limit how long he can hold the floor and the budget agreement is likely to pass the Senate in the wee hours of the night.
Shortly after Paul went on Fox, he marched to the Senate floor with a series of charts about how much he dislikes the bill. He spoke for more than an hour.
“Your grandkids are being stuck with the bill! Mark my words, the stock market is jittery” over the debt, Paul said. “It’s worth a debate whether we should borrow a million dollars a minute.”
Paul spoke to Trump on Thursday, and urged the president to direct McConnell to grant a vote on his amendment. Trump supports the budget agreement that boosts defense and domestic spending by $300 billion, while Paul vehemently opposes it.
“The president wants a resolution. I told him the best way to get to a resolution, let’s get Sen. McConnell involved and let’s say why don’t you give him a 15-minute vote,” Paul said.
Paul admitted that his amendment would only get 15 to 20 votes. But he is discouraged by the lack of debate and ability to amend such a large budget deal.
Yet with just hours to go funding expires, GOP leaders were in no mood to open up the amendment process. Democrats would also want to amend the bill if Paul was allowed to.
“It’s hard to make an argument that if one person gets an amendment, that everybody else won’t want an amendment,” Schumer said.
Republicans tried to accommodate Paul with a procedural “budget point of order” vote that would easily fail, but Paul resisted, preferring to use the Senate floor and the ticking clock to garner attention for his lonely cause.
Under Senate rules, all 100 senators must agree to hold a vote for it to occur on Thursday. Without consent, the vote would occur at 1 a.m., and Paul would be allowed to speak for an hour after that. The House also will still need to pass the bill, and there is uncertainty about the vote there as well given opposition from liberals and conservatives.
“I think it will all work out. But it’s up in the air,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Ayanna Alexander contributed to this report.
Powered by WPeMatico