Editor’s Note: This post was written by Loryn Defalco.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced the bill S. 3576 on September 19th, 2012, and it failed two days after its introduction. S. 3576 was a bill primarily meant to put limitations on United States assistance. The main purpose of this bill was to limit the foreign aid given to combative and hostile countries with other specificities. While this piece of legislation was very important to him and his constituents, the other senators in the chamber did not agree on its importance. Senator Paul’s bill to limit foreign aid to specific countries was overwhelmingly opposed. There were no co-sponsors and only ten senators voted in favor of the bill, all of whom were Republicans. Senator Paul did not believe that his legislation would pass a vote in the Senate, but he still pursued the legislation. In the 112th congress, only three percent of introduced legislation was enacted into law. While proposed legislation has a very slim chance of becoming law, it still often serves a symbolic purpose. Paul’s bill to provide limitations on United States assistance served such a purpose.
After the bill had been introduced by Senator Paul, he was able to use it as a talking point to gain support among the electorate. It did not matter that the bill had not passed because he had done his job by introducing the legislation. Its failure was the fault of the other senators within the chamber. Thus, the primary reason that the bill failed was because it was never intended to pass. The legislation was never seriously considered. The bill had never gone through a committee, but was instead immediately scheduled for a vote and immediately failed when put to vote. Members of the Senate opposed this legislation because they ideologically disagreed with the policy and many members from Paul’s own party opposed the bill because they did not believe that the policy would have the outcomes that Senator described. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) opposed the bill because he believed that providing aid to these countries was a way of maintaining an open dialogue with them and that it is essential to maintain an open dialogue with countries like Pakistan, who have nuclear weapons. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) opposed the bill because she believed that it would be breaking the Camp David Accords. However, the widespread opposition to the bill among senators was irrelevant to Paul because his constituents supported the bill.
Even though Senator Paul had expected his bill to fail, he still believed he needed to introduce it to the Senate. Senator Paul introduced this legislation regardless of the outcome because he believed that his constituents and the American people supported the legislation. By serving his constituency, Paul secured support in future elections. He also used this bill as a fundraising tool. After the failure of the bill, Senator Paul asked for donations so that he could continue to support what the American people wanted. Thus, this bill was never intended to win a vote on the Senate floor. Instead, it was meant to be symbolic and make a rhetorical point, which Paul was able to achieve regardless of support from other senators.