Three minutes after midnight Friday leading into Saturday morning, the Senate rejected by a vote of 81 to 10 a proposal offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to hold aid to the governments of Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan pending the surrender to U.S. authorities of those suspected of carrying out the attack on U.S. diplomatic offices in Egypt and Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered in the attack on the Libyan consulate.
Senator Paul’s bill also contained a clause requiring the release of Dr. Shakil Afridi, currently imprisoned by the Pakistani government, before any more money would be sent to Islamabad. Paul observed,
In no way should the United States government be sending money to governments who are not our ally, who blatantly do not respect our country, and who work to compromise the safety of our allies and citizens abroad. I am pleased that the Senate leadership has listened to my pleas for an end to this and have agreed to debate and vote on this pressing issue.
Dr. Afridi is believed to have played a vital role in the manhunt that led to the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden. He is being held in a Pakistani prison on a 33-year sentence. Afridi ran a vaccination program that was allegedly just a front for a CIA operation to obtain a DNA sample that would verify bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. A senior CIA official told the New York Times that the effort ultimately was unsuccessful.
Senate leaders from both major parties were reluctant to take a vote on the measure and only relented after Senator Paul successfully filibustered Friday night, forcing the issue.
In advance of his filibuster, Senator Paul mailed “Dear Colleague” letters to members of the House of Representatives urging them “to pass a bill cutting all foreign aid to any country that fails to secure our embassies, as well as demanding accountability from the countries of Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya, that were recently involved in the violence directed at our embassies.”
In a similar letter to fellow senators, Paul informed members of that body that he intended to filibuster and would hold up work on any other matter until his bill was given a vote.
Both letters reminded recipients that Senator Paul’s first choice is to “demand a full stop to the flow of foreign aid money to these countries.” He went on to propose other options that could accomplish a similar goal:
Significant cuts that are less than the full amount of foreign aid could be considered, coupled with redirecting a portion of the money into the improvement of security at our diplomatic facilities. If these countries cannot secure American lives and property, our increased cost of doing so must come out of the money set aside for aid.
The following senators joined Senator Paul in voting to attach these conditions to the delivery of funds to the named governments:
Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho); Jim DeMint (R-South Car.); Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa); Mike Lee (R-Utah); Jerry Moran (R-Kan.); Jim Risch (R-Idaho); Pat Roberts (R-Kan.); Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.); and Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.).
During that same pre-dawn session, the Senate approved 90-1 a bill declaring that the United States will take action to thwart Iran’s purported plan to develop nuclear weapons. Rand Paul was the only senator who voted against the measure.
Fox News reported that the measure is “non-binding” and “should not be construed as an authorization for the use of military force or a declaration of war.” The resolution specifically states, however, that the United States will not “rely on containment of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.”
Despite denials that this resolution will be used to justify armed intervention in Iran, similar soft-pedaling was heard after September 11, 2001 and American troops are still dying in the Middle East 11 years later.
Not surprisingly, among the chief sponsors of the bill were members of the war-drum corps: Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). “If Iran is ever allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability, containment will be almost impossible," Graham said in a statement.
Currently, the United States sends over $4 billion annually to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.
Following the conclusion of Friday's/Saturday’s business, congressmen bugged out of Washington headed for the campaign trail.
Photo of Sen. Rand Paul: AP Images