Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) visited Kyiv, Ukraine, and met with the country’s president on May 14 in an unannounced visit.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the visit on various social media platforms.
“The visit of the U.S. Senate delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people. Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country but also for democratic values and freedoms,” he said in a social media post. “We really appreciate it.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) joined the trip.
The Republicans’ visit came as the Senate may be poised to authorize another $40 billion in military aid for Ukraine through a measure that was approved by the House on a bipartisan 368–57 vote.
However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stalled an effort for the measure to be passed in the upper house on a fast track.
Paul, a libertarian who often opposes U.S. intervention abroad, said he wanted language inserted into the measure, without a vote, that would have an inspector general scrutinize the new spending.
“No matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America,” he said.
Paul is also concerned that the new spending will worsen the domestic inflation that has been caused by “deficit spending.”
“We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy,” he said.
Paul then stated that the United States should learn the lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“We should not forget that the Soviet Union collapsed in large part, not because it was defeated militarily, but because it ran out of money. In an attempt to save Ukraine, will we doom the United States to such a future?” he asked.
Paul’s objection to passing the measure quickly will delay it to this week or further, although its final passage isn’t in doubt because of bipartisan support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McConnell—who both intended to pass the measure on May 12—disagreed with Paul, but suggested holding a vote on his concern as an amendment to the measure.
“It’s clear from the junior senator from Kentucky’s remarks, he doesn’t want to aid Ukraine,” Schumer said. “All he will accomplish with his actions here today is to delay that aid, not to stop it.”
McConnell suggested that it’s reasonable to provide weapons to Ukraine as long as the United States didn’t join the war directly.
“Ukraine is not asking us to fight this war. They’re only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion,” McConnell said. “And they need this help right now.”
The Associated Press contributed to the report.