WASHINGTON (AP) – House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy warned Tuesday that Republicans will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine if they regain the House majority, reflecting his party’s growing skepticism about financial support for Kiev as it battles Russia invasion.
“I think people are going to sit in a recession and not write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it. … It’s not a free blank check.”
The comments by McCarthy, who is in line to become speaker if Republicans win the House, raised new questions about the resilience of US support for Ukraine as a growing number of Republicans, particularly those aligned with Donald Trump’s “America First” approach, question the need for federal spending abroad at a time of record high inflation at home.
Since Russia launched its invasion in February, Congress has approved tens of billions in emergency security and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, while the Biden administration has delivered billions worth of weapons and equipment from the military stockpile.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was evasive Tuesday afternoon when asked about McCarthy’s comments. Instead, she thanked congressional leaders for their bipartisan work to “support Ukraine to defend itself against Russian war crimes and atrocities.”
“We will continue to work with Congress and we will continue to monitor those conversations about these efforts and support Ukraine as necessary,” she said. “We will keep the promise we make to the brave Ukrainians who fight every day, to fight for their freedom and their democracy.”
Privately, Republicans who support aid to Ukraine say there could be an opportunity to approve another tranche of aid for the country in a year-end spending package, before Republicans potentially take control of the next Congress.
Last month, lawmakers approved about $12.3 billion in aid for Ukraine as part of a bill that funds the federal government through Dec. 16. The money included aid to Ukraine’s military, as well as money to help the country’s government provide basic services to its citizens.
That’s on top of the more than $50 billion provided in two previous bills.
Financial support for Ukraine received strong bipartisan support in the Senate and House after the Russian invasion in the spring. In the Senate, GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, have been early and consistent voices in favor of aid to Ukraine. But conservative opposition was present from the start. Republicans were the only votes against the $40 billion aid package in the spring.
Nearly 60 members of the House of Representatives and 11 senators opposed the bill, citing a need for greater oversight of how the money is spent and what weapons and equipment the US sends abroad.
Rep. Michael McCaul, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would lead efforts to ensure better oversight of Ukraine’s spending if the GOP wins a majority next month.
“I think you have broad bipartisan support for what’s going on in Ukraine, but I think if we get a majority, you’re going to see more oversight and accountability in terms of funding and where the money goes, and I think the American taxpayers deserve that,” he said. the Texas Republican told Bloomberg Business on Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.