SHELBYVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) plans a Senate vote later this month to cancel foreign aid to Pakistan.
The move is in protest to Pakistan's imprisonment of Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor hailed as a hero in the United States for helping track down terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Afridi has since been sentenced to 33 years in jail.
In May, a Senate panel voted to trim U.S. aid to Pakistan by $33 million, or $1 million for each year of the sentence. Paul said all aid should be cut.
"Don't send them another penny," Paul said in a recent floor speech. "I say stop immediately. I'm not saying take a small amount next year. Don't send them any more money this year or next year."
Opposition to foreign aid is nothing new for Paul, who argues that a debt-ridden United States can't afford it and shouldn't have to buy its friends, including a tenuous relationship with Pakistan.
"It's even more insulting to take U.S. taxpayer money and send it to a country that's basically sticking their thumb in our eye and saying, 'We're going to go ahead and put this guy in prison out of spite because you got Bin Laden without our permission.'" Paul told WHAS11 News.
Up until now, Paul's threats to cut foreign aid have been mostly symbolic. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid prevented Paul from adding the amendment to the Farm Bill.
Paul says Reid cannot stop his next move.
"I now have gotten 16 signatures for what's called a cloture petition which allows me to force a vote when nobody else really wants it other than the 16 of us," Paul explained. "But we're going to have a vote on ending Pakistan's foreign aid if he doesn't get released. He has an appeal July 19. My plan is within a few days of his appeal if he's not released, we'll have a vote on ending their aid."
Working with the CIA, Dr. Afridi helped confirm bin Laden's secret compound in Pakistan. Under the cover of a fake vaccination program, Afridi collected DNA from the terror mastermind's relatives. After a secret trial, Pakistan said the conviction is for "anti-state activities" and that Afridi supported a militant group.
"Well, he did give them money," Paul said. "They kidnapped him and held him and said they would kill him unless he gave them money. So he did pay a ransom and they're counting that as somehow aiding and abetting terrorism because his family paid a ransom to get him freed from terrorists."
"So we think the charges are trumped up and we also think that he did a great service and risked his life to help us get Bin Laden," Paul continued.
Paul and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell met privately last week with the Pakistani ambassador.
"(McConnell) basically told them that he had long been a supporter of aid to Pakistan but this vote was going to happen and they need to be aware of it," Paul said.
Paul said he has never spoken to Afridi, but he has become the most vocal champion in the fight for the doctor's freedom.
"bin Laden was the mastermind, killed 3000 Americans," Paul said. "You know, we think (Afridi) deserves some respect and help."
Help, that so far, diplomatic efforts and public pronouncements have failed to deliver.
"All of us are outraged at the imprisonment and sentence of some 33 years, virtually a death sentence," said U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) on May 25 in reaction to the Pakistani sentence.
"His help, after all, was instrumental in taking down one of the world's most notorious murderers," added Hillary Clinton,
U.S. Secretary of State on May 24.
If the State Department can't win his release, how can a freshman U-S Senator and ophthalmologist from Bowling Green Kentucky help a convicted spy get out of a Pakistani prison?
By making a $3 billion threat.
"But I am giving them one chance to get out," Paul said on the Senate floor. "If they release Dr. Afridi, I'll stand down."