Democrats and Republicans have both been backing Ukraine aid for months now. But there’s a growing sense of unease on Capitol Hill that something could soon happen to disrupt that financial support: Republicans could win the House in November.
“I’m absolutely not supporting any further funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Daily Beast last week.
And Steube, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is far from alone.
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), a member of the committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, told The Daily Beast that if he is to vote for more Ukraine aid, he wants a more detailed explanation and more briefings from the Departments of Defense and State on where the money is going.
“We’re just blindly kind of giving it to them,” Jackson said. “I want to know that… we’re not wasting the taxpayers’ money in a time when we have a lot of things we can do with the money here in our own country.”
Throughout Congress, Republican support for providing Ukraine aid has swung in multiple directions since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war earlier this year. Several GOP lawmakers have told The Daily Beast they think President Joe Biden is being far too “weak” on Russia and not sending enough weapons to help Ukrainians fight back.
But there’s also been a strong and steady resistance to sending billions of dollars to Ukraine, even as Putin wages war. Some Republicans have tried to blame the war on Biden and have said they would rather focus on domestic priorities—from inflation to the southern border—and want to condition Ukraine aid on other issues, whatever the consequences may be in withholding aid from Ukraine.
Dozens of Republican members of the House have already sought to throw up roadblocks to Ukraine aid packages. Fifty-seven Republicans tried blocking $40 billion in aid to Ukraine earlier this year, in addition to 11 Republican Senators. Not a single Democrat tried to stand in the way.
Republicans haven’t gummed up the system entirely, though. The Biden administration has successfully sent over $15.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the war started.
But now that the war has been going on for over six months—and Republicans see that they might take back the House—more Republican resistance may be ahead.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is also one of the most vulnerable Democrats, said he’s fearful Ukraine aid might be diluted or somehow degraded if Republicans win the House.
“It’s certain that the next Congress is going to have more members of the Tucker Carlson/Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party… and I fear they will seize any opportunity they can find to at least chip away at our support for Ukraine,” Malinowski said. “If they’re in the majority, and there will be more crazies, that possibility will be” there.
Just this past week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned a group of Democrats over dinner at an Italian restaurant blocks away from Capitol Hill that he thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is going to lose the House to Republicans this election, according to Punchbowl News.
Republican leadership in the House tends to agree.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, told The Daily Beast he expects Republicans to cinch key election wins across the country.
“I'm very optimistic. I think we're going to have a red wave, as expected,” Johnson told The Daily Beast. “I think each one of [the races] that we were concerned about, that everybody's been watching, are trending in the right direction.”
According to The Economist’s midterm election modeling, which simulates the midterms for each election 10,000 times, Republicans have a 74 percent chance of winning the House.
If that’s the case, there could be significant roadblocks to approving more aid for Ukraine. For starters, Republican leaders will almost certainly insist on a heavy say in future aid packages, and they’ll need significant buy-in from the GOP conference. The problem there is that Republicans are all over the place on aid to Ukraine.
Still, conservatives could very well calcify against the foreign aid, and they could make not sending aid a core principle of any GOP-sponsored spending bill. In a face-off with President Biden—or a Democratic Senate, should Democrats hold that chamber—aid to Ukraine could become a sticking point. And it’s uncertain who’d come out on top in that sort of standoff.
To be sure, the GOP’s exact position on Ukraine aid is still under discussion among GOP leadership, Johnson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and assistant whip for House Republicans, told The Daily Beast.
But some Republicans indicated they are overpaying for Ukraine’s defenses, suggesting that the United States can’t afford to bankroll a war the U.S. military technically isn’t backing with troop deployments.
Steube, who said he won’t be greenlighting more Ukraine aid, suggested he wants Congress to address inflation instead.
“At a time when inflation is skyrocketing and Americans are struggling to afford basic goods, we must put the needs of our country first,” Steube said.
Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said she doesn’t think the United States should continue to support Ukraine and tried to compare Ukraine defending its territory in a ground war against a nuclear-armed country to immigrants trying to cross the southern border of the United States.
“We cannot send tens of billions of dollars to some other country to defend their borders when we completely need to defend our own borders when there’s an invasion every day,” Taylor Greene said Thursday, echoing sentiments that members of the House Freedom Caucus, of which she is a member, have been sharing since the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
Some House Republicans told The Daily Beast they’re concerned about Ukraine—but they’re more concerned about the future of Taiwan and its defenses against a potential crisis China might instigate.
“Taiwan is as much in our strategic interests, probably more so, and we should make sure that we’re getting weapons systems to them,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) said. “I think we need to be really strategic and remember number one that China's our number one adversary.”
Continuing to help Ukraine, though, is making America weak, according to Tiffany.
“I mean, I wish the best for Ukrainians” Tiffany said, noting that he is questioning greenlighting aid to Ukraine after the midterm elections. “But if… we’re gonna make inflation worse for the American people, that is a weak America. We gotta get back to strength.”
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Republican Whip, wouldn’t commit to his conference continuing aid to Ukraine after the midterms, and cited concerns about Taiwan as well, Defense News reported.
Some Republicans said they intend to raise issues with how the United States government tracks—or doesn’t track—weapons provided to Ukraine. They want more accountability, especially as officials have admitted there are no surefire ways to keep tabs on the weapons sent to Ukraine and as concerns linger about American arms falling into the wrong hands, as CNN reported. And without key accountability measures for Ukraine aid packages, several Republicans told The Daily Beast they won’t be inclined to vote yes.
“I continue to call for transparency to ensure that American funds and weaponry do not fall into the wrong hands, and any future aid packages will require proper oversight and 100% accountability to American taxpayers—something the Biden administration has been unwilling or unable to provide,” Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told The Daily Beast.
Ukraine has been making progress in recent days to defeat Russian forces in several regions in Ukraine, which could change some Republicans’ calculus moving forward as well. Ukrainian armed forces have been launching multiple counteroffensives in southern and northeastern Ukraine, forcing Russians to retreat. Ukraine has reclaimed over 8,000 square kilometers from Russian forces in just the last several days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address.
Ukraine’s successful counteroffensives could be an indication that battlefield conditions might negate any need for more Ukraine aid after the midterm elections, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) suggested.
“I hope they don't even need the aid by then—it looks like they're kicking some butt,” Buck told The Daily Beast, adding that he's already voted against some Ukraine aid.
Ukrainian officials say, however, that security aid is more important than ever. Putin insisted on Friday that he is not letting up in Ukraine. Even after winning back territory this month, Ukraine says it needs longer-range missiles to further beat back Russia—missiles known as Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)—in addition to tanks, drones, artillery systems, and shorter-range missiles for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), as The Wall Street Journal reported.
American officials say the end of the war is not in sight. Just last week the Biden administration approved another $600 million drawdown for Ukrainian military aid—and it includes cold-weather gear as Ukrainian forces prepare to fight Russians through the winter.
Ukrainian General Valery Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Ukraine, and Lieutenant General Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, another top general in Ukraine, predict that their country will be fending off Russians through 2023.
And without key aid from the United States, Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi fear that timeframe will drag on.