How $6 billion in Ukraine aid collapsed in a government funding bill despite big support in Congress

FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch...
FILE – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, middle, walks with Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer of N.Y., proper, at Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Washington.(Mark Schiefelbein | AP Picture/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The collapse of Ukraine help in Congress was months within the making, and precisely what Senate Republican chief Mitch McConnell had feared.

McConnell had warned that political help for Ukraine was at risk as a small however vocal contingent of fellow Republican lawmakers intensified their efforts in opposition to sending U.S. cash abroad for the battle in opposition to Russia.

First in a sequence of high-profile speeches this summer time then in direct overtures to the White Home, the Republican chief who had visited Kyiv and put a precedence on U.S. help for Ukraine tried to steer the hard-right flank of his occasion.

However ultimately, neither McConnell nor the White Home nor Democrats in Congress may muscle a scaled-back $6 billion navy and civilian help package deal for Ukraine to passage in final week’s deal to keep away from a U.S. authorities shutdown.

Regardless of overwhelming bipartisan help in Washington for stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the failure to approve Ukraine help was a large setback for an administration searching for to guide a Western alliance to guard the younger democracy because the combating grinds on.

It additionally exhibits the perils forward in Washington as a hardened band of Republican lawmakers who’re only a minority in Congress — many allied with Donald Trump, the occasion’s 2024 presidential front-runner — flex their energy to beat the need of the bulk. The following steps are extremely unsure.


“It does fear me,” President Joe Biden acknowledged final week. “However I do know there are a majority of members within the Home and Senate — each events — who’ve mentioned that they help funding Ukraine.”

Biden mentioned he’s getting ready to ship a significant speech on U.S. help to Ukraine and has a plan within the works to make sure the circulate of help after the upheaval on Capitol Hill, which was punctuated by the ouster of the Republican Home Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

As Washington regroups, the sudden shift has unleashed political blame over the shortcoming of the White Home and Congress to work across the small however intensifying minority of lawmakers who’re placing help in jeopardy.

“Not one other penny for Ukraine!” wrote Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Greene, a high Trump ally, arguing cash needs to be spent on securing the U.S. border with Mexico as an alternative.

McConnell, R-Ky., had been making an attempt to construct help for Ukraine for months, ever since he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv in Could.

The senator gave repeated ground speeches, talked with allies abroad and made the case his precedence amongst colleagues on Capitol Hill, the place Zelenskyy acquired a hero’s welcome final 12 months and visited with a follow-up enchantment weeks earlier than the funding showdown.

However after the White Home introduced Biden’s $24 billion request for Ukraine help in August, McConnell knew it might not have the help wanted to cross, based on an individual accustomed to the scenario and granted anonymity to debate it.

McConnell had met with a gaggle of Republican protection hawks within the Senate earlier than the tip of September deadline to fund the federal government or danger a shutdown, which might sometimes be the time to additionally cross the White Home’s spending request for Ukraine.

However the GOP senators left McConnell with the understanding the help for Ukraine funding general could be missing.

Per week earlier than the deadline, McConnell instructed Biden’s nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, on a Friday name that it “could be not possible” for Congress to cross the total $24 billion request, mentioned the individual accustomed to the scenario.

As a substitute, McConnell inspired the White Home to look “strongly” at whether or not it may depend on sending Ukraine help by means of present methods for transferring or reprogramming cash within the brief time period, the individual mentioned.

The White Home, in a sequence of conversations with McConnell’s staff over the weekend, thought of smaller quantities of funding and insisted that the Ukraine help was very important.

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McConnell agreed to do what he may. Days later the Senate superior its package deal to maintain the federal government open for the brief time period, till Nov 17, with $6 billion for Ukraine. It handed the Senate on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.

The issue was, nonetheless, that the Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill had by no means totally articulated Ukraine as a high precedence as they fought off Home Republican calls for for steep funds cuts to maintain the federal government open.

And McCarthy, R-Calif., was having his personal issues within the Republican-led Home.

Greene and different hard-liners within the Home had basically pressured McCarthy to strip a a lot smaller quantity of Ukraine safety help funds, $300 million, from an annual protection funding invoice.

It was a stark instance of how a rising flank of the occasion — some 100 Republicans — was wresting management from the bulk who broadly supported the invoice.

It was an indication of the difficulty to come back.

Staring down a doubtlessly devastating authorities shutdown, the embattled McCarthy then stripped the $6 billion Ukraine help from the federal funding package deal earlier than the Home vote to maintain the U.S. authorities open.

Because the Home was getting ready final Saturday to avert a shutdown, McConnell convened his Republican senators behind closed doorways for a lunch assembly.

McConnell spoke of the necessity to retain the Ukraine help within the closing package deal, nevertheless it was clear the room was not with him.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Republicans’ second in command, had been in talks with McCarthy, together with that morning, and understood from the speaker that the package deal couldn’t cross with the Ukraine help connected.

Thune instructed the Republican senators he thought they need to transfer ahead with the Home model, with out the Ukraine cash, as the easiest way to keep away from a shutdown, based on a Republican accustomed to the non-public assembly and granted anonymity to debate it.

The third-ranking Republican senator, John Barrasso of Wyoming, swiftly agreed, based on one other Republican granted anonymity to debate the dialog.

Listening to his colleagues, McConnell then shifted course.

McConnell got here out after lunch and mentioned the Republicans would vote in opposition to advancing the Senate invoice as they waited to see what their Home colleague would do.

That afternoon, the Home accepted the package deal hours earlier than the midnight deadline to maintain the federal government open. The Ukraine help was dropped.

Gone from the ultimate invoice was not solely the $6 billion in Ukraine help, but additionally pages of textual content outlining the flexibility to switch funds to Ukraine.

It was simply what McConnell had been making an attempt to keep away from.

Within the aftermath, the White Home made it clear that McCarthy had made a dedication to Ukraine past what was within the package deal.

However when reporters requested McCarthy about it, the speaker mentioned there’s no “secret deal” with Biden on Ukraine.

What there was, McCarthy defined, was an assurance that the flexibility to switch funds for Ukraine would stay intact. If there was any confusion about that, he mentioned, “We’ll repair it.”

The following day, McCarthy was ousted from the workplace over long-simmering complaints about his management, leaving any repair for Ukraine funding unsure.

Biden’s speech about Ukraine help is coming. The White Home is ready for the Home to elect a brand new speaker. And it’s working with Congress to make sure the transferability of funds and to supply new help for Ukraine.


Related Press author Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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