The next tranche of US aid to Ukraine is running into political trouble as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy considers tying its approval to controversial immigration and asylum policies strongly opposed by Democrats.
(Bloomberg) — The next tranche of US aid to Ukraine is running into political trouble as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy considers tying its approval to controversial immigration and asylum policies strongly opposed by Democrats.
President Joe Biden’s request for $24 billion in emergency funds to address the war in Ukraine would not be attached to a must-pass bill needed to fund the government past Oct. 1, according to a person familiar with McCarthy’s tentative plan.
A protracted standoff over border policies would delay and could endanger the aid to Ukraine at a critical time for the country, which is waging a counteroffensive to take back southern territories seized by Russia.
Separating the Ukraine aid, which is controversial among GOP hardliners, could make House passage of a short-term spending bill easier, avoiding an Oct. 1 government shutdown. The gambit also would remove an obstacle in the way of $16 billion in funds to address a string of wildfire and hurricane disasters included in the short-term funding package.
But a border-Ukraine bill isn’t a sure bet in a House where several ultra-conservatives oppose new aid for Kyiv. And any bill with new restrictions on migrants seeking asylum in the US — a key demand of House conservatives — would be dead on arrival in the Senate.
The exact border provisions that would be attached to Ukraine aid are still unclear. House Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy has said that more funds for border security without asylum policy changes is not acceptable.
“More money is not a solution. We have to hold the Biden administration accountable to change policies,” he told Fox News Wednesday.
McCarthy’s move would put him at odds with Republicans in the Senate who are largely on board with supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said Congress should fund the administration’s request. And South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said in an interview he wants to increase the defense funding beyond Biden’s request.
Emerging from a closed-door Senate briefing on Ukraine Thursday, Republican Thom Tillis said he’s concerned McCarthy’s approach would delay passage of Ukraine funding, which could present “a strategic opportunity and a great win” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, downplayed McCarthy’s potential maneuver as a “possible model” for how he can move the legislation through his chamber.
“If that’s the formulation that works, we’ll deal with it,” Thune said.
(Updates with Thune and Tillis in last three paragraphs)
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