As Zelenskyy visits Washington, GOP bucks Ukraine aid | Courthouse News Service
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As Zelenskyy visits Washington, GOP bucks Ukraine aid

Angry about federal spending on Kyiv, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers are threatening to hold up a multibillion-dollar aid package requested by the White House.

WASHINGTON (CN) — 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.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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