— CSPAN (@cspan) March 15, 2017
John McCain’s fighting words for Rand Paul might have lit up Wednesday evening if perpetual tornado Trump hadn’t allowed his anger to bubble when a Hawaii federal judge froze his latest Muslim ban. Yet that’s how politics rolls these days, and it’s worth belatedly reflecting upon this jaw-dropping Senate floor moment when McCain didn’t hide his disgust for Paul, who opposed a treaty that would begin Montenegro’s entrance into NATO.
First, the senator from Arizona made his case. He made no secret of desiring a unanimous vote and warned that anyone who objected to the treaty’s passage was “carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin.” McCain initially kept a measured tone while stressing the seriousness of Russia wanting to “dismember this small country which has already been the subject an attempted coup.” At that point, Rand objected and walked right out of the room, and McCain grew visibly (and audibly) furious:
“I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number — perhaps 98, at least, of his colleagues — would come to the floor and object and walk away. The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”
Paul’s objection effectively blocked Montenegro’s accession process (after 21 of 28 NATO members had already signed on) because the treaty required unanimous Senate approval. CBS News reports Paul’s subsequent justification for blocking the treaty’s passage, and for him, this all comes down to resources. Paul stated that he felt it was “unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt.” He’s not wild about the U.S. being obligated to help defend all of the existing members of NATO.
McCain and Paul are often at odds with some instances being more bizarre than others. In 2008, the two quarreled about military strategy in Iraq with Paul misquoting his colleague. And in 2013, McCain called Paul (along with Ted Cruz) a “wacko bird.”
At times like these, a mud pit in the middle of the Senate floor would be a wonderful thing. Admit it, you’d watch this fight.