LOUISVILLE — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on Monday criticized foreign aid to military dictatorships and the Muslim Brotherhood, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell railed against a backlog of federal disability claims for veterans.
Kentucky's two U.S. senators were the key speakers at the 114th national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in downtown Louisville.
In speaking to the crowd of about 10,000 veterans, Paul said the greatest priority for the federal government was to defend the Constitution and the nation.
"Yet, sometimes I think our defense is weakened by our over-eagerness to be involved in every civil war on the planet."
He said the Obama administration insisted on sending fighter jets and tanks to the new military junta in Egypt after sending arms and billions in aid to the country's former Islamic government.
He said the United States should not send a penny to nations "that burn our flag."
"I have tried to stop the continuous flow of your money to countries that hate us and Israel," he said.
Paul noted that more than 75 percent of Americans oppose arming the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling party in Egypt until a military coup July 3, but more than 75 percent of the Senate voted to continue arming Islamic radicals.
"In Egypt, the regimes keep changing but our system of foreign aid stays the same. Unbelievable," he said.
Concerning Syria, Paul said it was "problematic on multiple levels" to send weapons to Islamic rebels in that country.
He said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was no friend to America, "but this does not mean the enemy of our enemy is our friend."
Asked at a later news conference about American aid if Assad uses chemical weapons against his people, Paul said he needed more information to answer that. President Barack Obama has said America would intervene if chemical weapons were used.
If America does arm Islamic fighters in Syria, Congress should get to vote on it, Paul added.
McConnell told the veterans that the backlog of federal claims filed by veterans should be addressed by Obama.
"At the beginning of 2009, there were 390,000 claims filed by veterans and awaiting action—way too many. Today, however, that backlog has almost doubled in number. This is totally unacceptable," he said.
McConnell noted that five years ago he supported Veterans Affairs funding that exceeded by more than $750 million what it had requested, "specifically to address this unacceptable backlog."
"Yet today, the average waiting time for a veteran who has filed a claim is nearly a year. And more than 750,000 veterans are still stuck in the backlog," he said.
McConnell's comments prompted Justin Barasky, national press secretary at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to send out a news release that said McConnell voted last month against a bipartisan plan to reduce the backlog.
McConnell press secretary Robert Steurer said, however, that McConnell sent a bipartisan letter signed by 34 Democrats to the president in April, urging him to intervene.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.