Eleven Republican senators bucked their leadership and voted against a motion advancing a $40 billion security assistance package for Ukraine on Monday, a sign of growing GOP opposition to U.S. efforts aimed at countering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody three-month-old invasion there.
The security package isn’t expected to pass until later this week because a single Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is objecting to a quick vote on the measure.
Paul has demanded the legislation give an inspector general authority to oversee spending, which he called unprecedented and fiscally unsound. But Democrats said that would require a re-vote in the House and burn precious time given Russia’s daily bombing of Ukrainian cities that is causing horrifying scenes of death and devastation.
In his floor speech earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed Paul’s efforts to delay passage of the bill as “totally unacceptable,” saying that it “only serves to strengthen Putin’s hand in the long run.”
Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, lamented that the delay would cost lives in a message posted on Twitter:
Ten other Republican senators joined Paul in voting against the motion to advance the security package on Monday; many of these senators made supportive statements about Ukraine’s plight following Russia’s invasion:
Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.)
John Boozman (Ark.)
Mike Braun (Ind.)
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Bill Hagerty (Tenn.)
Josh Hawley (Mo.)
Mike Lee (Utah)
Roger Marshall (Kan.)
Tommy Tuberville (Ala.)
The list of lawmakers hindering aid to Ukraine has been steadily rising over the past month. Last week, 57 Republicans voted against the Ukraine assistance bill in the House. Two months ago, only three GOP House members voted against a separate security package.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump and right-wing pundits, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have ramped up rhetoric against U.S. support for Ukraine aid. Trump also called into question the spending measure last week, linking it to the shortage of baby formula that has been attributed to a safety recall and supply chain issues.
“The Democrats are sending another $40 billion to Ukraine, yet America’s parents are struggling to even feed their children,” Trump said in a statement released by his super PAC.
Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) argued that spending $40 billion on Ukraine is “not in America’s interests,” adding on Twitter that it “allows Europe to freeload, neglects priorities at home (the border), allows Europe to freeload, short changes critical interests abroad and comes w/ no meaningful oversight.”
But Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), a deficit hawk and, like Hawley, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, voted in support of the bill. The top Trump ally called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “a threat to our national security and the security of our democratic allies.” He added: “America must always protect our interests and support democracy over tyranny.”
Monday’s vote to advance the Ukraine package came on the heels of a trip to Kyiv by Senate Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). After meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, McConnell told reporters he assured him “that support for Ukraine and this war against the Russians is bipartisan,” including from “an overwhelming majority of Republicans.”
McConnell also addressed the opposition to Ukraine aid from the Trump wing of his party in a statement released after the trip.
“Ukraine is not asking anybody else to fight their fight,” he said. “They only ask for the tools they need for self-defense.”
“America’s support for Ukraine’s self-defense is not mere philanthropy,” he added. “Defending the principle of sovereignty, promoting stability in Europe, and imposing costs on Russia’s naked aggression have a direct and vital bearing on America’s national security and vital interests.”