“As I travel in Kentucky, I meet countless individuals who are struggling to survive in this economy, we have no business sending hundreds of millions of dollars overseas,” says Rand Paul. | AP Photo
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) plans to force senators to vote on the State Department’s approval of $700 million worth of fighter jets to Pakistan using an obscure Senate rule that hasn’t been invoked in decades.
The Obama administration cleared the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan last month. But Paul is invoking the obscure Arms Export Control Act of 1976 in a bid to shoot down the sale with a resolution of disapproval.
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“Over the last few years we have seen that Pakistan is an uncertain ally when it comes to cooperating with the United States,” Paul said in a statement. “As I travel in Kentucky, I meet countless individuals who are struggling to survive in this economy, we have no business sending hundreds of millions of dollars overseas.”
The last time the Senate voted on such a resolution, according to Paul’s aides, was in 1986, when then-Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) forced a roll call on banning sales of certain missiles and defense services to Saudi Arabia.
The junior Kentucky senator is using a little-known provision in the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 that allows any member of the Senate to secure a floor vote to disapprove an arms sale. Under the law, the senator must introduce a resolution of disapproval, and then wait 10 days for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to act on the measure, according to the Congressional Research Service.
If the committee doesn’t take up the measure after 10 days, the senator can move to discharge that resolution from the committee with a floor vote. That vote is primarily procedural, and not necessarily an up-or-down vote on the resolution’s merits.
One senior Republican said it was likely that Paul would get such a vote on the floor sometime before the next recess, which begins the week of March 21, in between other Senate business.
Paul, who ended his presidential bid earlier this year, has frequently criticized foreign aid to Pakistan and other countries. In 2012, he introduced legislation to end all U.S. aid to Pakistan in protest of the arrest of the Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. track down Osama bin Laden.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been tense in recent years, from the U.S. raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in 2011 to clashes over the Haqqani network’s safe havens in Pakistan.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended the fighter jet sale to Pakistan in a House hearing last week, acknowledging Pakistan could do more to combat terrorism but arguing the F-16s were important to their fight.
“The F-16s have been a critical part of the Pakistani fight against the terrorists in the western part of that country, and have been effective in that fight,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the House, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has introduced a companion resolution disapproving of the arms sale.