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If Republicans win the House in the midterm elections, his commitment is to take a look at the money the United States is spending to help foot the bill – to the tune of billions in security aid – for Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion.
Kevin McCarthy, who would likely be speaker of the House in January if the Republicans win in November, still supports US aid. But if Republicans win the House, he said, there will be no more “blank check.”
President Joe Biden said McCarthy’s comments show today’s Republicans “have no sense of American foreign policy.”
“These guys don’t understand. It’s much bigger than Ukraine – it’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. These are real, serious, serious results,” Biden said Thursday at a fundraiser in Philadelphia for Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman.
McCarthy expressed surprise Wednesday that his questioning of aid to Ukraine caused an uproar.
“Wouldn’t you want a check and balance in Congress? Wouldn’t you want money from these hardworking taxpayers, someone to oversee it?” he told CNBC.
It is wrong to paint Republicans with a brush on this issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has voiced his continued support for funding Ukraine and released a statement Friday pledging that a Republican Senate majority will continue to help Ukraine in its war against Russia.
But McCarthy’s suggestion that a Republican House majority could target Ukraine funding may be part of a larger shift in the war. And the split between McConnell and McCarthy on the issue could be a sticking point if the GOP wins control of the House.
McCarthy has also said that cutting spending across the board will be a top priority for Republicans if they win control of the House.
Speaking on Fox on Thursday, pundit Laura Ingraham mocked former Vice President Mike Pence for referring to the US as “the arsenal of democracy” and suggested the US military is too depleted to help other countries.
He had a friendly guest in Pence’s fellow Indian, Representative Jim Banks, who said the US should not deplete its own weapons cache to help a country in Europe. Keeping the weapons, he said, rather than putting them on the battlefield, would help the US stay stronger.
“That’s the reality of this moment we’re in today. We can’t put America first by giving blank checks to those around the world to solve their problems,” Banks said, echoing the language of McCarthy.
Lawmakers will have another chance to vote on funding Ukraine, likely this year as part of a larger government funding bill.
The last time the House voted directly on aid to Ukraine, the vote was overwhelmingly favorable: 368-57. The votes were not all Republican.
But you can feel the terrain shifting as a new wave of Republicans hope to sweep Washington.
Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama lost a Republican nomination to run for Senate in his state and said he felt attacked for voting to support Ukraine aid by his opponent Katie Britt and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Bannon, it should be noted, has inspired many of former President Donald Trump’s policy positions and has consistently opposed US funding for Ukraine.
“I stand by my vote and I’m proud of it,” Brooks said on Twitter. “Putin must be stopped. At home, America must hold political opportunists accountable.”
The US has committed more than any other country to Ukraine, according to a database of military, financial and humanitarian aid maintained by the Kiel Institute for the world economy As a percentage of GDP, the US ranks sixth.
It has given a total of $18 billion in military aid to Ukraine since January 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement last week, while announcing an additional $725 million in aid.
From CNN’s report on the most recent $725 million authorized by the Biden administration:
The assistance includes high-velocity anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), anti-tank weapons and small arms, as well as ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and small arms, according to a statement from the Department of Defense. The aid package also provides medical supplies, more than 200 high mobility vehicles and thousands of rounds of artillery and rounds of remote anti-armor mine (RAAM) systems.
Elon Musk, the billionaire who has provided the critical Starlink Internet service to Ukrainian forces, tried to get the Pentagon to start footing the bill for that service before backing out earlier this week.
Musk has expressed support for Ukraine, but drew criticism when he suggested a peace plan in line with Russia’s interests in a recent tweet. Read more about Starlink from CNN’s Alex Marquardt, who first reported that Musk was asking the Pentagon to foot the bill.
Even if Musk won’t negotiate a peace plan and will continue to provide Internet service to Ukrainians, his recent actions could be another sign of the beginnings of fatigue in what has been mostly unified global support. Italy’s new governing coalition is expected to include former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has maintained a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
None of this means that there will be less American or global support for Ukraine, but it certainly means that powerful people, and people like McCarthy, who may soon have much more power, are looking harder at how is spent .