Things got heated at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing when Rand Paul of Kentucky walked out over an arcane procedural disagreement as Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona tried to cool tempers.
“If this is the way you’re going to run the committee, I would suggest that Republicans leave. I don’t see why we should stick around if you’re going to make up the rules,” Paul demanded of Peters after a heated back and forth. Paul proceeded to walk out of the room after the exchange.
Paul took issue after Peters used secondary amendments to effectively nulify amendments he offered to the bill that reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration, the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Grants Program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program.
“I request a recorded vote,” Ranking Member Paul said. “I also have a second degree amendment and I recognize myself to offer a second degree amendment,” Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) replied. “My second degree amendment would direct — “
“Point of inquiry. Point of inquiry,” Paul interrupted. “ — GAO to issue an audit of the U.S Fire Administration — “ Peters continued.
“Point of inquiry,” Paul repeated.
“ — three years of enactment to continue improving — “ Peters carried on.
“Point of inquiry,” Paul insisted.
“Yes, go ahead,” Peters replied.
“We have, what, unlimited second degree amendments?” Paul asked.
“We have a second degree amendment, I’ve recognized myself for my second degree amendment,” Peters said.
“Your second degree amendment to a second degree amendment?” Paul asked.
“No, it’s a second degree amendment is being offered to the Scott Amendment,” Peters responded.
“No, I — I already called up a second degree amendment to the Scott Amendment,” Paul commented.
“You can’t call it up, senator,” Peters replied. “Only the chair can call it up.”
“Well, I was recognized to call it up the same way we have recognized for every other amendment,” Paul answered. “You recognized me and I called it up.”
“You were recognized to call it up for a vote,” Peters objected. “I will — only a chair can do that.”
“If this is the way you’re going to run the committee, I would suggest that Republicans leave. I don’t see why we should stick around if you’re going to make up the rules,” Paul said heatedly at one point.
The procedural argument turned increasingly hostile and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) tried to calm down the senators.
“You don’t have to escalate this to a situation where folks are walking out,” Sinema pleaded. “Now, we can just ask folks who can explain the rules to us and then we’ll follow them…”
“Who do we ask?” Paul asked. “Just the majority staff?”
“Let’s consult the folks,” Sinema said and pointed out towards the chamber. “I mean, the rules are written down. We can follow them. I don’t think that we need to escalate this to become a spectacle.”
But that’s exactly what Paul did. He gathered up his things and he walked out.
What was the argument about? Peters was using procedural tactics to keep Democrats on the committee from voting on the Republicans’ amendments to the Fire Grants and Safety Act.
According to Senator Peters’ official website, “The Fire Grants and Safety Act reauthorizes SAFER, AFG, and the USFA until 2030. It authorizes $95 million for USFA – a nearly $20 million increase from current levels, and maintains currently authorized levels of funding for the SAFER and AFG programs.”
As reported by The Hill, “Paul offered an amendment to make any fire department that terminated firefighters for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine or speaking out against the mandate ineligible for federal grants. Under Paul’s proposal, fire departments that fired employees for refusing vaccines could become eligible for federal money by offering those individuals reinstatement and backpay.”
Peters offered second-degree amendments to the Republican-sponsored amendments that completely gutted their content.
As Paul stormed out of the room, Sinema urged senators to “take a couple minutes, lower the temperature, just figure out the procedure.”
“There’s no need for us to turn this committee hearing into a partisan, ugly place like we’ve seen in other committees,” she added.
Follow Kyle Becker on Twitter @kylenabecker.