House and Senate Republicans tell Biden administration they oppose funding Ukraine war effort
A group of Republican House and Senate lawmakers told the Biden administration on Thursday they would not support funding additional aid to Ukraine without detailed information about the war effort.
The GOP lawmakers told Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, in a letter that the American people deserve to know how their tax dollars have been spent and the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas spearheaded a letter from 23 House members and six senators, writing that the lawmakers received OMB’s Aug. 10 request for additional supplemental appropriations.
The White House has asked Congress to provide an additional $24 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian assistance related to the war in Ukraine. Of that, $13 billion is military aid.
“Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were six months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan? What does the administration define as victory in Ukraine? What assistance has the United States provided Ukraine under Title 10?” the lawmakers asked.
“It would be an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility to grant this request without knowing the answers to these questions,” they wrote. “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.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged House and Senate lawmakers in person Thursday to continue U.S. funding for his war-torn country, but his pleas for more aid are under more scrutiny by GOP lawmakers in both chambers.
Their reasons for being skeptical about releasing more funds to the embattled country invaded by Russia in early 2022 range from shelling out billions of taxpayer dollars for an indefinite period to funding both sides of the war effort.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the U.S. has appropriated $114 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine and “countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine,” the lawmakers note. But they say that the amount doesn’t reflect the full picture, which includes transferred and reprogrammed funds.
“The vast majority of Congress remains unaware of how much the United States has spent to date in total on this conflict, information which is necessary for Congress to prudently exercise its appropriations power,” they wrote.
The lawmakers cited an example from the Department of Defense’s recent $6.2 billion accounting error on Ukraine Presidential Drawdown Authorities, which they said showed greater need for transparency from the administration.
“When an executive department’s accounting mechanism may be altered or replaced to permit the provision of an additional $6 billion in defense articles or services to foreign governments (out of, very roughly, an overall authority of $25 billion), the Congress cannot make an accurate determination of the value of articles it might transmit to a foreign entity when voting on PDA limitations,” they wrote.
The GOP lawmakers say the Senate recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that
authorized the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for three more years and authorized $300 million for the program in fiscal year 2024. The House version authorized that same amount.
“You have asked for $5 billion for this program, 15 times more than either of these figures,” the Republican members write. “Disjuncture between authorization and appropriation figures of this magnitude makes a mockery of the NDAA’s authorization process, which has occurred for 62 years consecutively.”
They also said Mr. Biden has pledged that the U.S. “will stand with Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty for as long as it takes.”
Republican lawmakers say they are growing tired of the open-ended statements and want to know when or if the Ukrainians are any closer to victory.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, told reporters Thursday that Mr. Zelenskyy would not answer any questions from senators who pressed him on this question.
“He was asked a couple of times, and this is a hard forum for him, because he’s here to ask for money. ‘Is victory possible? What can the U.S. do to assure you victory?’ And he didn’t answer that question,” Mr. Hawley said.
Mr. Zelenskyy was also asked about a negotiated peace, but responded that the conflict was frozen and that Russia couldn’t negotiate in good faith.
“What I take from this is it sounds to me like this is a stalemate, which is exactly what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said yesterday,” Mr. Hawley said. “He predicted a stalemate indefinitely. … What is [the Biden] administration’s plan, then? What are we gonna do?”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, told reporters his problem is not with Mr. Zelenskyy but with President Biden “funding both sides of the war.”
“He’s sending billions of dollars to the Ukrainians. And he’s simultaneously sending millions of dollars to the Iranians who are providing the drones that are killing Ukrainian soldiers,” Mr. Cruz said. “It makes no sense for the Biden administration to fund both sides of this war. The Biden White House is doing so because they prioritize an Iran nuclear deal more highly than they prioritize victory in Ukraine.”