There is a growing rift between Senate and House Republicans over whether the United States should continue supplying Ukraine with military and economic aid unless there is a more serious effort to account for the $113 billion already sent and without some sign that negotiations will begin soon.
Some of the more conservative House Republicans want to cut off aid to Ukraine altogether. Others want to condition the aid on being able to discover exactly where the aid has been going. Others want the president to use the aid to force President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to compromise with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Most Republicans in the Senate think as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) think.
“Helping Ukraine retake its territory means weakening one of America’s biggest strategic adversaries without firing a shot — and deterring another one in the process,” McConnell said, referring to Russia and China.
‘Pulling the plug on Ukraine after Afghanistan is a nightmare for America. And if you don’t get that, you really don’t understand the world,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters.
Biden wants another $24 billion for Kyiv, plus $16 billion for emergency FEMA aid to deal with recent natural disasters in Florida and Hawaii. He wants that money in the upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded, probably through December.
But the Freedom Caucus wants these items in a separate bill to be taken up after the group gets its way in the CR. What they want, they will never get: an end to “woke” policies in the Department of Defense, an end to the “weaponization” of the Justice Department, and more spending on the border.
“Both parties, in both chambers, must come together on passing emergency supplemental funding to help our fellow Americans reeling from natural disasters, to stand with our friends in Ukraine fighting against Putin, and to fight against the fentanyl crisis, among other priorities,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in floor remarks Thursday.
The Senate, with few holdouts, seems to be on board with Ukraine aid. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been herding cats, trying to develop some kind of consensus about what legislative approach to take that would fund the government, keep the Freedom Caucus happy — at least, happy enough to keep him from being booted from office — and keep his conference from imploding.
But McCarthy is considering a different approach. According to a report by Punchbowl News, McCarthy wants to attach only the disaster relief to the provisional funding bill and withhold Ukraine aid for a separate negotiation.
McCarthy wants to leverage the Ukraine aid to secure changes in border security policies and funding, the report said.
A McCarthy spokesperson would not confirm the Punchbowl report, saying only that the speaker supports “the House continuing to work through regular order on appropriations bills that include Republican priorities to lower spending and stop the [Democratic] priorities that are currently locked in.”
The White House was livid with McCarthy’s plan to separate Ukraine aid.
“Lives are at stake across a wide range of urgent, bipartisan priorities for the American people that are addressed in President Biden’s supplemental funding request,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said, accusing McCarthy of trying to “cave to the most extreme members of his conference.”
But Sen. Graham had no problem with combining Ukraine aid with border security. He said marrying Ukraine funding to more money for securing the southern border “makes perfect sense to me” — but he seemed to split with the House leader on timing.
Indeed, the CR is going to need to be worked out before the Sept. 30 deadline. And if Ukraine aid is holding up passage of the CR, Biden will probably cave and agree to make it a separate issue.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy is once again making it clear that he has no intention of ending the fighting until all Ukraine territory seized by Russia in the last decade is back in Kyiv’s hands.
“When you want to have a compromise or a dialogue with somebody, you cannot do it with a liar,” Zelenskyy said.
It’s entirely possible that Zelenskyy is holding on until Joe Biden and the Americans decide to enter the war on his side. Unless there’s a change of government in Moscow or a collapse of Russian forces, Zelenskyy has no way to win his war without American troops leading the way.
That way lies madness.