CAPITOL HILL — In a post-midnight vote, the U.S. Senate has voted to keep the U.S. government funded for the next six months. The vote was 62-30.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky forced a vote on his amendment to cut U.S. aid to Pakistan, Libya and Egypt, but the Senate overwhelmingtly defeated the measure it by a vote of 81-10.
The fiscally conservative senator led a one-man campaign to keep the Senate from voting on a must-pass bill to fund the federal government unless Senate Majority leader Harry Reid agreed to allow a vote on Paul's amendment to cut off foreign aid to the three countries.
Paul said he did not expect the measure to pass, but he wanted senators to have to go back home and explain to their constituents why they voted for aid to countries where there are violent anti-American protests.
The senator said, "When you look at the polls of the American people, you find that nearly 80 percent of the American people think foreign aid in general is a bad idea. We have roads in our country that are crumbling and need repair, we have bridges that are crumbling. In my state alone we had a bridge out six months last year. We have two bridges that are older than I am and need to be replaced in Kentucky. We don't have the money, but we somehow have billions of dollars to send to people who disrespect us and burn our flag."
Amendment to restrict funding
Paul's amendment would have made any resumption of aid contingent on Egypt and Libya arresting the people responsible for the recent embassy and consulate attacks and turning them over to U.S. authorities. The measure would have required Pakistan to release an imprisoned doctor who helped the CIA identify the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Some Republicans support a push to restrict foreign aid to countries with governments not deemed to be reliable allies. But many Republicans strongly objected to the Paul amendment as a terrible idea that would damage U.S. national security interests.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, "Nothing would be more welcomed in Libya today than if the Islamists and al-Qaida, who are there, and other extremists would - nothing would make them happier than to hear that the United States had cut off all assistance to Libya."
Most Democrats also rejected cuts to foreign aid, saying some of the countries that are undergoing political changes need U.S. assistance now more than ever. Democratic Senator Max Baucus pleaded for Democrats and Republicans to work together on these sensitive foreign policy issues.
Baucus said, "It used to be not too many years ago that in foreign policy issues, because they are really non-partisan, we as a country worked together. We faced the country, the world, as one voice. So I strongly caution my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to not make this a partisan issue, that is U.S. policy in the Middle East, especially in this case northern Africa."
But during a day of contentious debate, Republican and Democratic lawmakers blamed each other for leaving a number of major issues unresolved, such as tax cuts and a looming across-the-board cut in government and defense spending. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid blamed Republicans.
"Over the past week, I have listened to my Republican colleagues come here to the floor and lament how little the Senate has accomplished during the 112th Congress. I above all share that concern. But in fact it is a wonder we we have gotten anything done at all considering the lack of cooperation Democrats have gotten from Republican colleagues," said Reid.
Senate Republicans blamed Reid and his Democratic members for not passing appropriations bills, making another temporary spending bill necessary to keep the federal government running. After the vote, senators joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives in heading to their home districts for a seven-week recess to campaign for the November 6 election.