‘I would suggest that Republicans leave’: Rand Paul leads GOP walkout after Dem chair tries tactics to block amendments

Things got snippy in the Senate on Wednesday, as Senate Homeland Security panel ranking member Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused the Fire Grants and Safety Act committee chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) of trying to use procedural tactics to block Democrats on the committee from voting on amendments proposed by the Republicans.

(Video: YouTube)

In response to the Republican-sponsored amendments, Peters countered with second-degree amendments, effectively gutting everything the Republicans proposed.

The amendment that started the tension centered on those who lost their jobs for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Under Paul’s proposal, those fire departments would have to offer those they fired reinstatement and backpay before being eligible for federal money.

Peters “gutted Paul’s amendment by substituting language requiring the comptroller general of the United States to conduct an audit and report on barriers that prevent fire departments from accessing funds,” The Hill reported. “The modified amendment was adopted by a party-line vote with all Democrats present supporting the modified amendment and all Republicans voting no.”

Next, Paul put forth another amendment to block funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from going to Chinese labs to fund “gain of function” research.

Again, Peters responded with a second-degree amendment that “changed the language to prohibit any money in the Fire Grants and Safety Act ‘from being provided to a Chinese fire department,'” according to The Hill.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Paul argued. “This is legislative legerdemain to obscure the fact that you’re trying to not vote directly on this.”

Next up was an amendment “sponsored by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to cover the costs of the $15.7 billion authorized over seven years by the Fire Grants and Safety Act with unspent COVID-19 relief money,” The Hill reported.

Peters rejected Paul’s second-degree amendment to the Scott amendment, claiming “only the chair can call it up,” and began offering his own second-degree amendment.

It quickly devolved into a battle of, in Paul’s words, “unlimited second-degree amendments”

“You’re offering a third-degree amendment,” Paul stated.

“I would say, if this is the way you’re going to run the committee, I would suggest that Republicans leave,” Paul continued. “I don’t see why we should stick around if you’re going to make up the rules.”

As tensions flared, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) attempted to de-escalate the situation, suggesting, “we all take a couple minutes, lower the temperature, just figure out the procedure.”

“Might I humbly suggest that we can work through these procedural issues to take all of the votes,” she told her colleagues. “There’s no need for us to turn this committee hearing into a partisan, ugly place like we’ve seen in other committees.”

“This is the first time we’ve had a hearing since I’ve been here that I know of that we’ve gotten second-degree amendments on every one of our amendments to avoid voting on the amendment,” Paul replied. “So we simply have done the same things by offering a second-degree amendment to the Scott amendment. It was offered from this microphone after I was recognized to offer it, and now they’re going back on it and trying to change the rules.”

“I, for one, won’t stay here,” Paul declared, “and would recommend that no Republicans stay here if we’re going to have a third-degree amendment that only the majority gets to offer.”

Sinema tried again, asking for “those who understand the rules of the committee to just explain to all of us, and then we’ll follow them.”

“We don’t have to escalate this to a situation where folks are walking out,” she added.

Ultimately, Paul did walk out, however, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) stayed to cast their votes.

Later, Lankford sympathized with Paul’s stance.

“Typically in that committee, we just have votes,” he said, according to The Hill. “When we can’t work it out behind the scenes, we have a vote and not replace someone’s vote.”

“We got to actually take votes,” he explained.


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