House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is refusing to consider a potential supplemental spending bill to continue military aid to Ukraine beyond the spending limit set for the Pentagon in the debt ceiling deal he worked out with President Joe Biden. Additional spending for Ukraine is “not going anywhere” in the House, he told Punchbowl, signaling Putin’s continued hold on at least a part of the Republican Party.
A group of Senate hawks pressed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to make a joint statement in support of a supplemental or emergency spending bill for defense and Ukraine in return for their votes in support of the debt limit bill. McCarthy rebuffed that Senate statement. “I’m not going to pre-judge what some of them [in the Senate] do, but if they think they’re writing a supplemental because they want to go around an agreement we just made, it’s not going anywhere,” he told Punchbowl Monday.
McCarthy has been all over the map on Ukraine, depending on his audience. Last spring, McCarthy was bashing Biden for not providing enough aid quickly enough to Ukraine. By fall, just before the election when he needed to keep the MAGA crowd of voters engaged, McCarthy reversed himself, promising there wouldn’t be a “blank check for Ukraine” anymore if Republicans gained the House. This spring, during a trip to Israel, he insisted that Russia had to “pull out” of Ukraine and told a Russian reporter, "I do not support what your country has done to Ukraine.” He said, “I support aid for Ukraine,” and added that “We will continue to support—because the rest of the world sees it just as it is.”
Now? Now he has to keep the MAGA/Freedom Caucus crowd in his conference happy. They’re still disgruntled over the fact that he didn’t allow the nation to default and cause an economic catastrophe. Lining up with Donald Trump and the pro-Russia crowd is one way to appease them. He’s certainly got the enthusiastic support of Putin-booster Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who told reporters, “I'm really happy to hear our Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, come out and say that we won't be appropriating money for Ukraine.”
His fellow Republican and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul of Texas is not so thrilled. He told Punchbowl “there will come a time when we need to” appropriate more Ukraine aid and that that could happen soon, depending on Ukraine’s success in the counteroffensive it’s poised to launch.
Certainly the Senate Republicans have a problem with it. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the biggest war hawk of all, is practically apoplectic at the thought that the defense department is getting the increased spending it requested, and no more. “We’re playing a dangerous game with our national security. The bill [McCarthy] produced is inadequate to the threats we face. If the Republican speaker takes the position that we’re going to be tough on China. … I don’t see how we do that with a declining Navy.”
McCarthy doesn’t particularly care about the Senate; he’s feeling pretty darned full of himself over his debt ceiling “win.” Now he is trying to assert his dominance over the Senate, declaring that “the senators are not paying attention to how the system works.” They’re going to love that. “We will go through the appropriations process and we will do the numbers that we just agreed to,” he added. A lesson in how appropriations are made coming from this guy won’t do much to heal any rifts in the Republican Party.
The fact is, McCarthy is emboldening the pro-Russia wing of the Republican Party by groveling to the likes of Trump and Greene. As McCaul pointed out, this is a really bad time to show anything less than total resolve to help Ukraine. McCarthy isn’t a deep enough thinker to get that, and his lack of experience and principle is a serious problem.
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