Senate moves funding bill ahead, as Paul seeks to cut off foreign aide

A six-month government funding measure has cleared a key procedural vote in the U.S. Senate on its way to bipartisan passage later this week — despite threats from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to hold up voting over his desire to cut U.S. aid to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan.

Paul could slow the voting process, forcing the Senate to remain in Washington over the weekend to complete work on the key spending bill. But the bill’s ultimate passage is inevitable — the 76 to 22 vote Wednesday to move the bill forward was a sign of its bipartisan support. Paul said talks were underway about resolving his issue, allowing a final passage for on the spending bill as early as Thursday. The Senate will then leave Washington until after the election.

The bill would provide funding for government agencies when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 at a level of $1.047 trillion, a spending cap set in last year’s deal to raise the debt ceiling. By resolving a short-term spending bill that will last into March now, Congress has ensured there will be no government shutdown when the year ends, a prospect that could have damaged both party’s reelection efforts.

In a letter to colleagues sent Tuesday, Paul said foreign aid must be reduced to hold foreign governments accountable for actions unfriendly to the U.S. In particularly, he suggested withholding U.S. dollar to Egypt and Libya until those responsible for violence at the U.S. installations last week are apprehended.

“While I believe the most effective tactic is to demand a full stop to the flow of foreign aid money to these countries until those responsible for the attacks on our diplomats are found, there are other options which can be considered. For example, 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,” he wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that negotiations are underway with Paul and leaders in both parties over whether to allow a vote on Paul’s proposal and how to speedily complete work on the funding bill.

“We’re working our way through that now,” he said.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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