Democrats vow to ‘not stop fighting for more assistance for Ukraine’
Lawmakers in the US acknowledged that winning approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress was growing more difficult.
Congressional supporters of Ukraine say they will not give up after a bill to keep the federal government open excluded US president Joe Biden’s request to provide more security assistance to the war-torn nation.
Lawmakers acknowledge that winning approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress is growing more difficult as the war between Russia and Ukraine grinds on, with Republican resistance to the aid gaining momentum.
Voting in the House this past week pointed to potential trouble ahead, with nearly half of House Republicans voting to strip 300 million US dollars (£246 million) from a defence-spending bill to train Ukrainian soldiers and purchase weapons. The money was later approved separately, but opponents of Ukraine support celebrated their growing numbers.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy omitted additional Ukraine aid from a measure to keep the government running until November 17. In doing so, the Republican closed the door on a Senate package that would have funneled six billion US dollars (£4.9 billion) to Ukraine, roughly a third of what had been requested by the White House.
Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the stopgap measure, with members of both parties abandoning the increased aid for Ukraine in favour of avoiding a costly government shutdown.
The latest actions in Congress signal a gradual shift in the unwavering support that the United States has so far pledged Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and it is one of the clearest examples yet of the Republican Party’s movement toward a more isolationist stance.
The exclusion of Ukraine funding came little more than a week after lawmakers met in the Capitol with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who sought to assure lawmakers that his military was winning the war, but stressed that additional aid would be crucial for continuing the fight.
After that visit, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said that one sentence summed up Mr Zelensky’s message in his meeting with the Senate: “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”
Yet, Mr McCarthy, pressured by his right flank, has gone from saying “no blank cheques” for Ukraine, with the focus being on accountability, to describing the Senate’s approach as putting “Ukraine in front of America”.
He declined to say after the vote on government funding whether he would bring aid for Ukraine up for a House vote in the coming weeks.
“If there is a moment in time we need to have a discussion about that, we will have a discussion completely about that, but I think the administration has to make the case for what is victory,” Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Biden said in a statement after Congress averted a shutdown that “we cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted”.
He called on Mr McCarthy to “keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine” and push through “the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment”.
In the Senate, both Mr Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell pledged to move quickly to try and pass the full White House request. But it was clear that goal would be increasingly difficult as more rank-and-file Republican senators have questioned the aid or demanded that it be attached to immigration policy that would help secure the southern border — echoing similar demands in the House.
Florida Senator Rick Scott, a Republican who voted for the spending bill after the Ukraine aid was stripped out, said that Congress needed to have “a conversation with the American public”. He said he was optimistic after seeing the money taken out of the bill.
“In my state, people want to be helpful to Ukraine, but they also want to be helpful to Americans,” Mr Scott said.
“And so they want to really understand how this money has been spent.”
Democrats said they were disappointed by the lack of Ukraine funding, but expressed determination that they would get the aid to the war-torn country.
“We will not stop fighting for more economic and security assistance for Ukraine,” Mr Schumer said after the bill passed.
“Majorities in both parties support Ukraine aid, and doing more is vital for America’s security and for democracy around the world.”