Would a GOP Congress cut back U.S. support for Ukraine?

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“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week signaled that Republicans may oppose some military aid to Ukraine if they take control of the House of Representatives after next month’s midterm elections.

“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy, the leading candidate to become speaker of the House if the GOP holds the majority, said during an interview with Punchbowl News.

Since Russia invaded in February, the U.S. has approved more than $60 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Unlike most issues in the deeply-divided Congress, support for Ukraine aid has been largely bipartisan. While McCarthy isn’t the only Republican to voice concerns about the spending, the bulk of GOP members have backed additional funding when it has come up for a vote.

Though many European nations have also contributed billions in aid to Ukraine, the U.S. has provided far more than any other country. That support has allowed Ukrainian forces to not only hold off the initial Russian offensive, but to also mount a major offensive and reclaim significant swaths of Russia-controlled territory over the past few months.

Most election models expect Republicans to win control of the House next month and give them around a 50-50 chance of also taking the Senate.

Why there’s debate

To some political observers, McCarthy’s comments are a sign of a growing skepticism within the GOP of American spending on Ukraine. Over the past several months, some prominent conservative lobbying groups, vocal far-right Republicans and high-profile members of right wing media have raised their opposition to further spending. In May, former President Donald Trump condemned a $40 billion aid package passed by Congress. Those criticisms may be having an influence on the views of the Republican base. In a poll taken late last month by Pew, 32% of GOP voters said the U.S. is providing too much support for Ukraine, more than triple the number who said the same in March.

But skeptics of that view argue that while there may be growing criticism on the fringes of the spending, the core of the Republican Party still strongly supports doing whatever it takes to help Ukraine win the war. “The vast majority of us, certainly including myself, think defeating the Russians in Ukraine is high-priority,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Defense News last month. Some pundits also say cutting off Ukraine aid, which could potentially mean handing victory to Russia, would be so politically disastrous that the GOP wouldn’t dare follow through.

A number of conservatives have defended McCarthy’s statements. They argue that he wasn’t calling for Ukraine aid to be cut off, but was instead making the case for more scrutiny to be given to how much is being spent and where that money is going.

What’s next

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has reportedly begun discussions on a plan to secure as much as $50 billion in additional support for Ukraine while Democrats still have support of Congress. That funding, which would likely be the subject of intense negotiating, would reportedly be included in a must-pass government funding bill that would be put up for a vote after the election, but before the new Congress is sworn in.


A GOP victory in the midterms is Russia’s best chance to avoid defeat

“Although the resilience, courage, and skill of the Ukrainian military has driven [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to increasingly desperate and depraved measures to avoid further battlefield humiliation, he can see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. And it’s being provided by the leadership of the Republican Party.” — David Rothkopf, Daily Beast

The process may be more contentious in the future, but the bills will ultimately pass

“I do expect the process to get uglier and more contentious if the Republicans win back the House. But I really don’t expect the results to be radically different, once the smoke clears and the appropriations bills are written.” — Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution senior fellow, to The Hill

McCarthy is right to say that the U.S. shouldn’t be writing a ‘blank check’ to Ukraine

“Americans deserve clarity from the Biden administration on specific U.S. strategic objectives in Ukraine. … If tens of billions of their taxpayer dollars are going to Ukraine, Americans deserve to know what Biden's objectives are.” — Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Curbing support for Ukraine would fit into the GOP’s emerging isolationist world view

“It's a remarkable shift for the Republican Party, which for years touted a hawkish position on foreign policy, especially as it related to leading adversaries like Russia. But under Trump's stewardship, the party has become increasingly isolationist, and its growing opposition to aiding Ukraine is the latest and clearest sign of that.” — John Haltiwanger and Sonam Sheth, Business Insider

Republicans can ensure the aid is spent wisely and in support of American interests

“Republicans should be against open-ended commitments, subsidies for broken international agencies, and funding that constitutes nation-building. But there is space well short of cutting aid to Ukraine for a GOP policy that holds the Biden administration accountable while strengthening U.S. strategic goals in Europe and Asia.” — Michael Allen, Wall Street Journal

It makes no political sense for Republicans to draw the line on Ukraine aid

“If the GOP majority hopes to defund Ukraine over the preference of a majority of voters, Republicans in leadership are going to have to make the case to the public. Every minute they spend doing that is a minute that isn’t spent addressing inflation, securing the border, supporting local law enforcement, curbing the efforts of social engineers to teach progressive cultural values in the classroom, and so on.” — Noah Rothman, Commentary

Democratic control of Congress has hidden deep divisions in the GOP over Ukraine

“The parties’ instinct to polarize around issues may force them further apart once Republicans take power in Congress, like magnets repelling each other at the poles. In the first flush of outrage over Russia’s invasion, with the GOP all but powerless to block outlays of military aid, that instinct was blunted. But once McCarthy or McConnell has veto power over legislation, it will reemerge with various ‘America First’ fig leaves offered to explain Republicans’ sudden reluctance to fund the Ukrainians.” — Nick Catoggio, Dispatch

The threat of cutting of Ukraine funding gives the GOP substantial leverage

“While it’s not clear exactly what McCarthy meant in refusing to sign off on a ‘blank check’ for Ukraine, the implication seems to be that Republicans would agree to further funding only in exchange for cuts in Democratic initiatives or increases in funding for GOP priorities like border security.” — Hayes Brown, MSNBC

The more influence Trump has on the GOP, the more vulnerable Ukraine aid will be

“Since Putin launched his genocidal invasion, has a single prominent Republican broken with Trump over his bromance with the Russian thug? Or his hostility to NATO? … Putin has gotten a lot wrong lately, but he undoubtedly thinks that if he can wait out the Biden presidency, he could do business with Trump 2.0. … with all that means for the fate of Ukraine.” — Charlie Sykes, Bulwark

Even the suggestion of cutting off aid hurts Ukraine’s war effort

“President Biden has spent nearly a year showing that the West will not bend. Now, with McCarthy’s typical recklessness in indulging MAGA isolationists, he is offering hope to Putin that if the Russian leader sticks to his war plan — built on human rights atrocities and Iranian weaponry — he might prevail. McCarthy’s comment will also likely shake European allies who worry about their own economic pain and fear that the United States might leave them dangling. It could also encourage Putin’s toadies in European capitals.” — Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

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