As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington to seek more military aid to help fend off Russia’s invasion, a key bloc of Republicans stopped just short of preemptively saying no.
Six Republican senators and 23 GOP House members sent a letter to the White House Thursday saying that, for now, they oppose a request for $24 billion in additional funding from Congress to support Kyiv.
In the letter, Republican lawmakers outline a series of questions they have about the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, including progress in the country’s counteroffensive, how the administration defines victory, and what direct assistance the U.S. military has provided.
“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,” the letter reads.
Zelensky is on Capitol Hill today in an effort to maintain support for U.S. aid to his country. But the letter comes as a flank of far-right Republicans, concentrated in the House, try to tank Ukraine aid.
That group is largely missing from the letter’s list of signatories, though members of the group, including Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-PA), have called for the U.S. to reduce its support. The same group of far-right Republicans have been publicly pressuring House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA ), pushing a short term spending bill that does not include additional aid for Ukraine.
McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that he had declined a request to have Zelensky address another joint session of Congress during his visit, and in a bizarre attempt to bring a rhetorical point into reality, he suggested that Biden should support GOP border funding requests before House Republicans agree to pass more Ukraine aid.
Republicans proposed a bill which would fund the Pentagon without appropriating money for Ukraine, which they failed to advance on the House floor for the second time this week on Thursday morning. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said it was a non-starter for the Senate.
The letter itself stops short of saying outright that its signers will block further aid to Ukraine.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) signed the letter, and said on Wednesday that he would use Senate procedural rules to slow down any additional Ukraine spending bills, citing long-debunked ideas around the national debt to justify more aid.
“We have no extra money to send to Ukraine,” Paul said.
Much of the letter is framed in the language of fiscal scarcity, and poses questions which have knowable answers, particularly to members of Congress with access to briefings from the defense and intelligence communities.
“How is the counteroffensive going?” reads part of the letter. “What assistance has the United States provided Ukraine under Title 10? “It would be an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility to grant this request without knowing the answers to these questions.”
Read the letter here: