Mainstream Republicans on Tuesday rallied behind a resolution sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to audit U.S. military and economic aid for Ukraine, sending their strongest signal yet that the Biden administration will face stricter scrutiny of its support for the war effort when control of the House shifts next year.
The measure, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was defeated in a 26-to-22 vote because of the unity of Democrats, who still control the panel and said the measure risked sending a message to Ukraine that America’s support for the war was in question.
“This is not the time for us to be divided,” said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the committee’s top Democrat. “We’ve held together with NATO and the E.U. and our allies. Let’s not fall into this trap.”
Republicans rejected that argument, however, and backed Greene’s resolution — endorsing the legislation of a politician who has quickly transformed from fringe House member to influential party power broker.
Offering a glimpse of the upcoming fights in Congress, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the committee’s top Republican, said the administration should brace for “responsibility and accountability.”
“The era of writing blank checks is over,” he said, echoing a phrase used in October by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif), who is seeking to become the next House speaker. McCarthy later clarified that he supported aid to Ukraine but wanted to exercise more oversight of the assistance.
President Biden has committed tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.
Before Tuesday’s vote, it was unclear if mainstream Republicans would support the measure by Greene, a fervent supporter of former president Donald Trump whose opposition to Ukraine aid has prompted extensive internal debates within a party led by longtime advocates for the use of military force around the world.
The measure requires the executive branch to transmit to Congress all documents and communications related to U.S. assistance for Ukraine no later than “14 days after the date of the adoption of this resolution.”
Hawkish Republicans said Tuesday they could support the measure because it did not claw back any current or future funding for Ukraine.
“All this is about is accountability. This is about transparency. What are we afraid of? We have billions upon billions of dollars that are flowing to another country,” said Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee.
Democrats said Republican priorities were out of whack at a time when Russian missile attacks were raining down on Ukrainian infrastructure and civilian targets in the middle of winter. “There will be plenty of time to look at transparency and accountability,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said. “Right now we’re in the middle of a war.”
Co-sponsors of the resolution included right-wing Republican Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Barry Moore (Ala.), and Andrew S. Clyde (Ga.). But it earned the support of moderates including McCaul and Peter Meijer of Michigan.
Though it was voted down, Greene said she would reintroduce the resolution in the next Congress once Republicans hold the majority.
“We take over in January! This audit will happen!” she tweeted after the vote.
The Tuesday vote follows a consistent drop in support for aid to Ukraine among Republicans, according to recent polling.
The latest survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released on Monday found 55 percent of Republicans saying they support sending military aid, compared with 68 percent in July and 80 percent in March. Half of Republicans favored providing economic assistance to Ukraine last month, compared with roughly three-quarters in March, according to the Chicago Council’s findings.
Across the political spectrum, more than two-thirds of respondents supported supplying Ukraine with weapons and economic assistance, and about three-quarters backed accepting Ukrainian refugees and sanctioning Russia, according to the survey, which was conducted last month.
The United States has announced 25 tranches of military aid to Ukraine since August 2021. Last month’s $400 million package included additional arms, munitions and equipment, and it brought total U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to nearly $20 billion since President Biden took office.
The United States is also sending $53 million to help repair Ukraine’s electrical systems, which have sustained significant damage from Russian missile strikes in recent weeks.