McCarthy defends ‘blank check’ remark on Ukraine

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday morning defended his comment that House Republicans would put more scrutiny on aid to Ukraine if they have a majority next year.

“I think Ukraine is very important. I support making sure that we move forward to defeat Russia in that program. But there should be no blank check on anything. We are $31 trillion in debt,” McCarthy said on CNBC.

“It’s amazing to me that that somehow made news,” McCarthy added. “Wouldn’t you want a check and balance in Congress? Wouldn’t you want this hardworking taxpayers’ money, someone overseeing it? We’ve got to eliminate the wasteful spending in Washington.”

Punchbowl News published an interview with McCarthy on Tuesday in which he warned that there would be no “blank check” to the war-torn country fighting off a Russian invasion, noting the state of the economy and other Republican priorities like the U.S.-Mexico border.

The comments sparked condemnation from Democrats, with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) tweeting that Republicans “want to cast aside American global leadership at a time when we should do the exact opposite.”

“A Republican party plagued with spineless Putin Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy, who would rather side with Russia over freedom, has no business leading,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Tommy Garcia said in a statement in response to the comments.

While a majority of Republicans have supported giving aid to Ukraine, a solid anti-interventionist contingent of the House Republican Conference has expressed opposition to sending more dollars to support its defense.

Influential outside groups like Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, have lobbied against some Ukraine funding measures. In May, 57 House Republicans voted against a $40 billion security supplemental for Ukraine.

Some Republicans support sending military aid to Ukraine but have scrutinized dollars authorized for economic and humanitarian help and pushed for more oversight of those funds. One criticism from Republicans on another $12.2 billion Ukraine aid measure that was tacked on to a stopgap funding bill that passed in the House in September was that only a minority of the funds were for military aid.

McCarthy argued on CNBC Wednesday that the actions of President Biden on Ukraine have “always been too late.” He said after a Ukraine trip in 2015, he advocated for selling Javelin missiles to the country to defend itself against Russia.

“I remember then-Vice President Biden telling me that Germany wouldn’t like that,” McCarthy said. “I then advocated that, well, why don’t we train them on the Javelins and keep them in Poland so they can move forward?”

“I believe we could do things smarter, we could be ahead. We could make sure that Russia wouldn’t see weakness going forward and then cost us more money, more lives, more damage. That is what I’m talking about when you talk about no blank check. I believe in accountability,” McCarthy said.

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