House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is signaling that if Republicans win the House majority in next month’s midterm elections, the GOP is likely to oppose more aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Since the invasion in February the majority of congressional Republicans and Democrats have united in authorizing billions of dollars in U.S. military and humanitarian assistance to Kyiv as a geopolitical and moral stand against Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
McCarthy, who could be House speaker if Republicans triumph, indicated that that could end in a GOP-led House.
“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” he recently told Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it.”
McCarthy suggested that Americans want Congress to focus on issues closer to home.
“There’s the things [the Biden administration] is not doing domestically,” he said. “Not doing the border, and people begin to weigh that. Ukraine is important, but at the same time, it can’t be the only thing they do, and it can’t be a blank check.”
The United States has authorized upward of $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, with more than $18.2 billion in security assistance given since January 2021. The Senate voted to finalize more than $40 billion in new military and humanitarian assistance in May, with Republicans being the only lawmakers voting against that package — the largest investment in Ukraine thus far.
Eleven Republican senators and 57 House GOP members opposed the legislation, arguing that more needs to be done to account for how the money is spent and to trace weapons and equipment sent to the battlefield.
On Friday, the United States announced an additional $725 million in security assistance for Ukraine, including more ammunition for high mobility rocket systems, or HIMARS, as well as precision-guided artillery rounds, antitank weapons and Humvees, according to a Pentagon statement.
Although most of the congressional leadership, most notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have been steadfast in support for Ukraine, voters in several states in January could send Republicans to Washington who are eager to oppose aid. The number of those wary of foreign aid and adherents of former president Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda are expected to grow in the next Congress.
In September, J.D. Vance, the venture capitalist and author who is locked in a close race for a U.S. Senate seat representing Ohio, said he wants “the Ukrainians to be successful” but not because of continued U.S. funding.
“I do think that we have to get to a point, and this is where we do disagree, we’ve got to stop the money spigot to Ukraine eventually,” he told the ABC affiliate in Toledo. “We cannot fund a long-term military conflict that I think ultimately has diminishing returns for our own country.”
Vance added, “I think we’re at the point where we’ve given enough money in Ukraine, I really do. … The Europeans need to step up. And frankly, if the Ukrainians and the Europeans, more importantly, knew that America wasn’t going to foot the bill, they might actually step up.”
Europe has provided a significant amount of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
In Arizona, Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters criticized the additional funding for Ukraine in May, claiming that the money should be used instead to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Under Joe Biden, it’s always America last,” he said in a video he tweeted. “Let’s be clear about what this means. It means no cease-fire. It means another foreign war where we pay for everything. Many more thousands of people will die. There’s no resolution, no end in sight. The risk of course is that a proxy war can escalate into an all-out nuclear war between nuclear powers.”
In New Hampshire, Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc said last week that more spending is not the answer to improving conditions in Ukraine.
“We must hold the administration accountable,” he told New Hampshire’s ABC affiliate. “We just can’t print this money. It’s money we don’t have, and it’s equipment that’s being thrown at a problem without any strategy, without any policy, and it’s not going to get the job done.”
These Republicans could join Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who in May temporarily held up $40 billion of aid to Ukraine, saying, “you can’t save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”
Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt tweeted in May that the $40 billion U.S. aid to Ukraine was a “shockingly abhorrent proposal.”
The loudest voices on the right on the issue, such as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, have been outspoken in questioning aid to Ukraine.
The Conservative Political Action Conference in September posted, then deleted, a tweet that echoed Kremlin language and called for a halt to “gift-giving to Ukraine.” It later issued a statement reaffirming its stance on U.S. assistance. “We must oppose Putin, but American taxpayers should not be shouldering the vast majority of the cost,” it said.
A September Pew Research poll found that most Republicans and Democrats say that the U.S. is providing “about right” or “not enough” support to Ukraine, though 32 percent of Republicans said the U.S. is providing “too much,” a figure that has more than tripled since March (9 percent). Relatedly, Americans’ concern about Ukraine being defeated and taken over by Russia dropped from 55 percent in May to 38 percent in September.
McCarthy’s comments to Punch Bowl News drew an incredulous response from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who tweeted at McCarthy, “What in the absolute bloody hell is happening to @GOPLeader.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has warned that if the GOP wins the House, help for Ukraine would be in jeopardy.
“I just see a freight train coming, and that is Trump and his operation turning against aid for Ukraine,” he said on MSNBC. “House Republicans, if they were to take the majority, being preternaturally against anything Joe Biden is for — including the war in Ukraine — and there being a real crisis where the House Republican majority would refuse to support additional aid to Ukraine.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that she did not want to engage in hypotheticals about what could happen if Republicans gained control of the House, but she said the president would continue to support the Ukrainian people’s efforts to defend themselves.
“We will continue to work with Congress and continue to monitor those conversations on these efforts and support Ukraine as long as it takes,” she said. “We are going to keep that promise that we’re making to the brave Ukrainians who are fighting every day to fight for their freedom and their democracy.”
Scott Clement and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.