Senate presses on with Ukraine funding push despite McCarthy comments

Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Kevin McCarthy
From left, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sit together during a ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate presses on with Ukraine funding push despite McCarthy comments

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) comments this week that poured cold water on the idea of an additional Ukraine aid package have not deterred the Senate.

In order to pass McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal last week, Senate leadership pledged they would bring a supplemental Ukraine funding bill up for a vote if necessary later this year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were facing a potential mutiny from a number of defense hawks, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as they tried to pass the bill as is before the “X-date” default deadline.

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McCarthy’s agreement with the White House infuriated several members of his conference, including House Freedom Caucus members, who retaliated by blocking two GOP measures concerning gas stoves in a Tuesday procedural vote, marking the first time a rule had failed since 2002.

On Monday, amid questions about a Ukraine supplemental, McCarthy said: “We just did our whole bill when it comes to the debt. If your first process is ‘I need a supplemental,’ you’re not paying attention. The senators are not paying attention to how the system works. We will go through the appropriation process, and we will do the numbers that we just agreed to. And the idea that they think they’re going to go around it is not going to work.”

McConnell acknowledged the matter on Wednesday as a “serious problem” that he currently lacks a solution for.

“All of that leads to my major concern: look, I supported the Biden-McCarthy deal, but I was not happy with the defense number. The defense number is totally inadequate to meet the challenges that we have in Asia, not to mention Ukraine,” the top Senate Republican said. “I’m not sure at this point how to fix it, but it’s a problem, a serious problem that hopefully we’ll find some way in the course of the year to address.”

He later added: “All I can tell you at this particular point is defense is radically underfunded related to the Chinese threat. And Ukraine probably will need additional assistance.

“So figuring out how to do this is going to be a challenge.”

Asked on Thursday if he was concerned about getting a Ukraine supplemental through the House, Graham told the Washington Examiner that time was on his side to find a solution.

“Now, we got some time here,” Graham said. “I want to work with the House to be fiscally responsible, but the main role of the federal government is national security. Hopefully we’ll get there.”

He continued: “The defense numbers are inadequate to the threats, but we should be fiscally responsible.

“I think we need more spending. Our own military fuel costs are really high. And it looks like Ukraine is going to have some real success on the battlefield. I don’t want to be the group that saved Putin, so looking for offsets, being creative, I’m willing to do that.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) suggested that McCarthy’s comments were likely meant to appease his dissatisfied members, telling the Washington Examiner on Thursday she believed there is enough bipartisan support in the House to pass any additional Ukraine aid that becomes necessary.

“I think [what he said] was intended for small group within his caucus,” she said.

“I feel pretty confident that the Republican Party is not going to turn their back on Ukraine,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) told the Washington Examiner this week. “They see that they are carrying the flag of democracy.”

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Biden expressed similar confidence when asked about the matter on Thursday.

“I believe we’ll have the funding necessary to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” Biden said. “I believe that we’re going to — that that support will be real, even though there are — you hear some voices today on Capitol Hill about whether or not we should continue to support Ukraine and for how long we should support them.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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