Ukraine funding shows minor crease in normally-unified GOP front

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


The degree to which the United States will fund Ukraine’s war effort has revealed what could be a divisive issue among Republicans should the party regain control of Congress, but conservatives are far from fractured.

As of today, the divide — such that it is — exists only in the ether.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the presumptive next Speaker of the House, has stated he would oppose unfettered funding for Ukraine. Other Republicans, among them Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have long expressed a desire to keep the spigots fully open.

“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” McCarthy said during an interview with political site Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it. … It’s not a free blank check. And then there’s the things [the Biden administration] is not doing domestically. Not doing the border and people begin to weigh that. Ukraine is important, but at the same time it can’t be the only thing they do and it can’t be a blank check.”

McConnell, who visited Ukraine in May, has been arguably the strongest advocate for funding the war effort, a stance that has led outlets like The Hill and Politico to report on a split in the conservative ranks.

However, it is hard to quantify the extent of this rift, if it exists. McConnell has made no substantive comments on Ukraine spending of late and any criticisms of McCarthy from the right have been oblique.

The most strident criticism of McCarthy has come from Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, but the  Pennsylvania Republican presented his remarks in the kindest way possible.

“Nobody’s talking about a blank check. It’s what [Ukraine] needs,” Politico quoted Fitzpatrick as having said. “This is a historical thing where war fatigue sets in, and this is the big risk. In fact, it’s something that Vladimir Putin banks on, that it’s no longer going to capture the front page of the newspaper … and people are going to forget about it and the genocide will be occurring in the darkness. We’re trying to prevent that.”

Politico also quoted former Vice President Mike Pence as having warned against Republicans seeking to “have us disengage with the wider world.”

But Pence isn’t seeking office and Republicans have surged ahead in midterm projections thanks at least in part to McCarthy’s “Commitment to America” plan, which as the name suggests prioritizes domestic issues.

Funding Ukraine has been an issue that has been mostly bipartisan, but some ranking conservatives have also grown wary of where U.S. dollars are going once they reach Ukraine.

The U.S. has already sent about $50 billion to Ukraine, money which has not been subjected to the type of heavy scrutiny most Republicans would like.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) famously delayed the passage of a Ukraine funding bill until more oversight measures were put in place.

Now, a growing contingent of conservative officials believes adding stricter accountability measures should be a prerequisite to future spending bills.

“I do think you have broad bipartisan support for what’s happening in Ukraine, but I think you’ll see, if we get the majority, more oversight and accountability in terms of the funding and where the money’s going, and I think the American taxpayers deserve that,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Bloomberg earlier this week.

Anything is possible in politics, but it would likely be foolish to predict a major split among conservatives or to worry that funding to Ukraine will be cut off.

Americans still largely support the war-embroiled nation, even if some of that support is predicated on a general disdain for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Republicans have supported new influxes of cash in overwhelming numbers and only a handful of conservatives — most notably Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — have been vocal in their opposition to Ukraine spending.

McCarthy, too, has only stated his support would have limits. Likewise, neither McConnell nor Fitzpatrick has indicated their support is limitless.

Assuming Republicans can find common ground where it already exists, and remain solid on virtually every other issue, what today is an emerging split might tomorrow be little more than a minor negotiating point come January.