As Zelenskyy visits Washington, GOP bucks Ukraine aid

A coalition of congressional Republicans told the Biden
administration Thursday that they would not support further financial
aid for Ukraine’s defense against Russia until the White House answered
their questions about U.S. involvement in the conflict.

The group
of 28 lawmakers, composed of some of the GOP’s more right-wing members
such as Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, Utah Senator Mike Lee and Arizona
Congressman Paul Gosar, told Office of Management and Budget Director
Shalanda Young that they would not vote for additional Ukraine aid,
arguing in a letter that “the vast majority of Congress remains unaware of how much the United States has spent to date in total on this conflict.”

Such
information “is necessary for Congress to prudently exercise its
appropriations power,” the letter read. “It is difficult to envision a
benign explanation for this lack of clarity.”

The lawmakers’ complaints come the same day as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is slated to visit Washington, where he is expected to meet with President Biden, defense officials and members of Congress.

The
Republican coalition bemoaned what they framed as exorbitant Ukraine
funding requests from the White House — Young’s office in August
requested that Congress greenlight a $24 billion aid package for Kyiv,
part of Washington’s longstanding financial support for Ukraine as it stands its ground against Moscow’s 2022 invasion.

The
lawmakers also pointed to the Biden administration’s $5 billion budget
request for the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative,
comparing it with the $300 million or so Congress approved for the
program in July as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“Disjuncture
between authorization and appropriation figures of this magnitude makes
a mockery of the NDAA’s authorization process,” the Republicans said.

Thursday’s
letter also reiterates a complaint common among the GOP’s right flank,
raising concerns about how long Congress should be expected to approve
Ukraine aid. The lawmakers argued that recent statements by
administration officials “imply an open-ended commitment to supporting
the war in Ukraine of an indeterminate nature.”

The Republicans
demanded that the White House explain its strategy for supporting
Ukraine and its plan for disentangling the U.S. from the conflict. The
letter also requested information on aid sent to Ukraine under a federal
law allowing the Defense Department to provide humanitarian assistance
abroad.

“It would be an absurd abdication of congressional
responsibility to grant this request without knowing the answers to
these questions,” the lawmakers told Young. “For these reasons — and
certainly until we receive answers to the questions above and others
forthcoming — we oppose the additional expenditure for war in Ukraine
included in your request.”

A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget did not immediately return a request for comment.

In
a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter,
Senator Vance said that he and his colleagues had received a classified
briefing Wednesday during which “it became clear that America is being
asked to fund an indefinite conflict with unlimited resources.”

“Enough is enough,” Vance wrote.

Meanwhile, some Democrats blasted the GOP’s demands. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy framed the outcry as lawmakers tacitly capitulating to Moscow’s war aims.

“They
support the eradication of Ukraine and Kiev becoming a Russian city,”
Murphy said. “This is the consequence of a cut off of aid. It just is.”

As congressional Republicans amp up their backlash to Ukraine funding, some party members have made the issue a centerpiece in the precarious battle over the federal budget.
The GOP’s more right-wing members have for weeks said that they would
not support any government spending bill or stopgap budget that includes
further funding for the conflict.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy,
hoping to narrowly avert a government shutdown brought on by a revolt
amid his own caucus, unveiled a short-term spending patch Wednesday with
no new Ukraine aid. Even with that and other concessions, however, hope
is fading among lawmakers that Congress can pass any sort of funding
bill before the end of the month.