For the pro-Israel community, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been a recurring problem. He opposes foreign aid and seeks to block or limit it at every turn. Just last week he blocked a fourth attempt by the U.S. Senate to approve $1 billion in funding to replenish Israel’s life-saving Iron Dome system. Paul’s repeated “no” vote has deprived sponsors of unanimous consent and has forced supporters to pursue a more formalized funding approach.
Paul claims that he supports the Iron Dome project and will vote for the $1 billion allocation. But, he insists that funding for it needs to come from some previously authorized budget item. He wants to use funds left over from money the U.S. was giving to the Afghan national government. Opponents argue that the Afghan funds are needed for other purposes.
Paul has made a career out of similar “non-budgeted” obstruction on the issue of federal relief after natural disasters. In 2013, he protested federal aid after Hurricane Sandy. In 2017, he did the same after hurricanes hit Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico, and after wildfires set California ablaze.
Paul’s mantra has been that, in such natural disaster emergencies, the federal government shouldn’t help fund the recovery and rebuilding needs of the states unless the funds to do so were taken from another part of the federal budget — almost always from foreign aid. And he voiced similar opposition to a 2020 bill to provide federal aid for 9/11 first responders, and was the only senator to oppose the bill to provide federal emergency relief for the pandemic.
Then, earlier this month, Paul’s state of Kentucky was hit by powerful, devastating tornadoes. The resulting loss of life was tragic, and the property damage was significant. In the circumstances, were almost any other lawmaker to seek federal aid following a catastrophic natural disaster of this sort, the request would have gone unnoticed. But when Paul asked the Biden administration for emergency help for Kentucky, the request was met with a mix of compassion for the citizens of Kentucky, raised eyebrows over Paul’s request and a barrage of accusations of hypocrisy and related political disparagement.
We support federal relief for Kentucky and agree with the criticism of Rand Paul. We hoped that the tragic devastation in Kentucky would help open Paul’s eyes to the importance and benefit of federal relief to assist with state emergencies. Quite simply, emergencies don’t fit neatly on a balance sheet. They aren’t planned and are rarely anticipated. States don’t invite disasters in order to obtain federal relief. Instead, emergencies demand an unscheduled (unbudgeted) response, and we should support them.
Unfortunately, Paul and his supporters have tried to distinguish the emergency needs of Kentucky from the same disaster needs of every other state. And they do so without expression of concern or compassion for the same emergency needs of anyone else. That’s disappointing. It’s also dishonest.