McCarthy Sets Up Battle Over Aid to Ukraine

McCarthy Sets Up Battle Over Aid to Ukraine

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Monday that he does not support providing additional aid to Ukraine through a supplemental funding bill, casting doubt on a still-developing plan in the Senate to send more military assistance to the war-torn country at some point later in the year, despite the strict spending caps laid out in the recently enacted legislation that suspends the federal debt limit.

A bipartisan group of defense hawks including Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to give more aid to Ukraine and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer assured them that the debt deal would not prevent them from doing so, despite the spending caps it imposes. The Fiscal Responsibility Act sets a defense budget of $886 billion in fiscal year 2024, which begins in October, with a 1% increase the following year. Graham has made it clear that he sees the agreement as inadequate. “The people who negotiated this, I wouldn’t let them buy me a car,” he told reporters last week.

McCarthy said that if Senate Republicans want to provide Ukraine with additional military aid, the funds will have to come from the defense budget. “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,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News.

McCarthy’s stance sets up a potential clash between populist conservatives in the House, who are skeptical about providing aid to Ukraine, and defense hawks in the Senate, who want to provide more funding for both Ukraine and the Pentagon.

Sen. Susan Collins, the senior Republican on the appropriations committee, described the Senate plan last week. “The first problem of an inadequate defense budget could be addressed and remedied by having an emergency defense supplemental,” she said. “That is what we need to do. That is what I would ask the administration and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to commit to.”

McCarthy told CNN that lawmakers should be able to find the money in the existing budget, in the form of waste that can be eliminated. “I think what we really need to do, we need to get the efficiencies in the Pentagon,” he said. “Think about it, $886 billion. You don’t think there’s waste? They failed the last five audits. I consider myself a hawk, but I don’t want to waste money. So I think we’ve got to find efficiencies.”