Congress will try to approve $50 billion for Ukraine before Republicans have a majority
Amid fears that Republicans could drastically cut US aid to Ukraine if they take control of Congress, lawmakers from both parties are seeking to secure billions of dollars in military support for Kyiv.
That must happen before the newly elected lawmakers are sworn in in January 2023, according to NBC’s congressional officials cited on condition of anonymity. There is talk of an amount in the order of $50 billion, which should be enough for all of 2023.
Democrats, as well as many Republicans, are worried that after the midterm elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate on November 8 this year, there could be an option of a Republican majority and a withdrawal of solid support for Kyiv. Currently, there are two camps among the Republicans – Kevin McCarthy, expressing doubts about the multibillion-dollar aid to the Ukrainians, and Mitch McConnell, supporting additional assistance to Ukraine. McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said this week that his allies “will not write a blank check to Ukraine.” Given that threat, Democrats and many Republicans will use the government funding bill during the holiday session after the midterm elections to provide a much higher level of military and other aid than previous packages for Ukraine. That’s what NBC’s sources claim.
Last month, Congress approved $12 billion in the military and economic aid for Ukraine, but sources say the planned new package will be significantly larger. The amount will be enough “to make sure (Ukraine) can get through the year,” a Republican senator familiar with the matter told NBC News. “With it, the 12 billion dollars will look like pocket money”. The new aid package, which is likely to be part of an overall spending bill, could be as much as $50 billion, according to congressional aides and a US media source close to the Ukrainian government. Joe Biden’s administration has yet to make a formal request for new funding.
Congress has appropriated a total of $65 billion in funding for Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February. Of these, about 17 billion are defense funds. Many Republican candidates, backed by former President Donald Trump, have questioned the amount of US aid given to Ukraine. They argue that the U.S. has more pressing domestic problems, that Kyiv’s fate is unrelated to U.S. national interests, and that European allies should supply a greater share of weapons and other aid.
On Thursday night, President Joe Biden said of the Republicans: “They said if they win, they probably won’t fund, continue to fund Ukraine. These people don’t understand. This is much bigger than Ukraine. This is about Eastern Europe, about NATO. This is about really serious, serious consequences.” House conservatives say America should strengthen its southern border and crack down on illegal immigration before worrying about Ukraine’s border with Russia. “My constituents are saying, ‘Why are we more concerned about Ukraine’s borders than America’s borders?’ My constituents are not saying, “God, we have to save the borders of Ukraine,” said Republican Warren Davidson of Ohio, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, which supports Trump.
Like Davidson, conservative Rep. Kat Kamak said her heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, but she did not vote for the latest aid packages for Ukraine and is not inclined to do so next year if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives. This is exactly what most studies predict. Kamak, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, told NBC News: “Before you help others, you have to put on your oxygen mask. And I just don’t think that as a legislator I could in good conscience support billions and billions of funds that they go abroad when we have such dire needs here.” Some other Republicans in Congress and outside, however, disagree.
Chuck Fleischman of Tennessee, a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee that controls spending, said providing weapons and other aid to Ukraine was critical to stopping Russia’s unprovoked invasion. “I voted for the first funding bill and I’m ready to discuss more funding,” Fleischman said. “If we don’t take the necessary steps for Ukraine to defend its nation and sovereignty against Russia, I think the consequences will cost much more not only to the United States but to the world.” Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a Heritage Foundation event on Wednesday, called Republicans who oppose support for Ukraine “apologists” for Vladimir Putin.
“As Russia continues its reckless war of aggression against Ukraine, I think conservatives need to make it clear that Putin needs to stop and that he will pay,” Pence said. “There can be no place for apologists for Putin in the conservative movement. There is only room for defenders of freedom in this movement.” House Republican leadership has “every incentive” to pass a large aid package now that Democrats have the majority to avoid having to face intra-party debate over the issue if the party regains control of the House. “They don’t want to deal with this next year,” said Daniel Vaidykh, an adviser to Ukraine’s state-owned energy industry and president of the Washington lobbying firm Yorktown Solutions, as well as a former Republican congressional staffer.