Omaha, Nebraska (CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul denied Monday that he had ever proposed legislation that would halt U.S. foreign aid to Israel, despite previously calling for an end to foreign aid for all countries.
“I haven’t really proposed that in the past,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters when asked if he still stood by his call to stop all foreign aid, given the unrest in Israel and Gaza.
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Growing combative, Paul stressed that he’s “never had a legislative proposal to do that.”
“You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position – a legislative position – we have never introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid,” he continued. “That’s the answer to that question.”
His comments came at a campaign stop in Omaha for Nebraska Senate GOP nominee Ben Sasse, the first trip on a nine-city leg that will take Paul across Iowa in a three-day swing. As he prepares for a potential presidential run and faces scrutiny from other Republicans over his libertarian-leanings on foreign policy, Paul has been trying to aggressively assert his support for Israel.
On Monday, he emphasized that he voted last week to send $225 million to the country for its missile defense system, known as the Iron Dome.
In 2011, however, Paul tried to get a vote on an amendment that would end foreign aid to Mideast countries, including Israel.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at the time, he pointedly said he would favor a halt to U.S. aid to Israel.
“I don't think funding both sides of the arm race, particularly when we have to borrow the money from China to send it to someone else,” he said. “We just can't do it anymore. The debt is all consuming and it threatens our wellbeing as a country.”
He made the same argument in an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, saying he would leave no “foreign aid intact.”
He later said, during a 2013 trip to Israel, that he would favor a more “gradual” approach to ending aid for Israel, compared to other countries.
Democrats were quick to seize on the comments. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline released a statement condemning his comments Monday.
“Paul can claim that he wants to be a friend of Israel, but the consequences of his actions would threaten the security of Israel and its ability to defend itself,” they said.