Politics

Rand Paul blocking spending vote, says can't 'look the other way'

'I was elected to combat Obama-era deficits'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday he was effectively blocking a vote on a spending bill ahead of a government shutdown deadline at midnight to put lawmakers on the spot over the national debt.

"I can't in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits," Paul said on the Senate floor.

The Senate was set to consider the spending agreement announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but an attempt by Paul to include his own amendment appeared to hold up a vote as of Thursday evening.

Paul said he objected to the deal to lift budget caps over the next two years, which, alongside the GOP's tax cuts passed late last year, will add further to the deficit, and blasted the process around the debate itself.

"This is the most important debate we will have in the year over spending, and no amendments are allowed," Paul said.

Paul railed against members of both parties, including Republicans for what he termed hypocrisy over concern about deficit spending.

"The reason I'm here tonight is to put people on the spot," Paul said. "I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, 'How come you were against President Obama's deficits, and then how come you're for Republican deficits?'"

In an interview with Fox News before taking the floor, Paul seemed to indicate a willingness to let the government shut down over the issue.

"I'm not advocating for shutting down the government," Paul said. "I'm also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute."

He said without McConnell granting him a vote on the bill, his options were limited.

"I will make them listen to me," Paul said.

Paul said he told President Donald Trump as much and let the President know if he could get McConnell to allow a vote, then they would move forward.

"I told him to call up the majority leader, Senator McConnell, and tell him I wanted 15 minutes to have a vote to make a point that conservatives are unhappy with this deal," Paul said, adding later, "Give me 15 minutes to debate, 15 minutes to vote, and we could have been done by noon."

Trump has backed the deal, tweeting that the increased military spending "is so important."

Paul said bringing the nearly two-decade-long military presence in Afghanistan to an end would better serve the military than continuing to fund multiple, ongoing combat operations around the globe.

"I could give a raise to every soldier out there if we just come home from Afghanistan," Paul said. "It's time to come home. There is no military victory there."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, among the most prominent hawks in Congress, mocked Paul on Twitter for the call to withdraw from Afghanistan, saying that would not be a good idea.

Republican leaders said earlier Thursday that Paul wants a vote on an amendment critical of the overall agreement, but they cannot give him the vote even if they wanted to do so because it requires consent from all senators.


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