The House of Representatives on Sept. 28 advanced a $300 million financial aid package to Ukraine.
The financial assistance package, which was removed from the larger Pentagon spending package to which it was originally attached, advanced in a 217–211 vote. Specifically, lawmakers voted to detach aid for Ukraine from the larger defense appropriations bill, allowing for votes to be tallied on each of the two measures.
An additional $20 million is slated for use in establishing an Office of Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance, a concession to Republicans who say the U.S. government is sending too much money—with not enough oversight—to the notoriously corrupt Eastern European nation.
Nevertheless, this concession is unlikely to sway House Freedom Caucus critics of the United States' Ukraine policy like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and others.
With the House’s vote to advance the bill, it is set for final passage through the House later on the evening of Sept. 28, when lawmakers plan to stay late to continue their work to fund the government.
So far, the United States has sent around $75 billion to Ukraine, a figure critics say is too high.
Still, despite opposition from the right flank of the Republican Party in the House, the Ukraine funding measure is a shoo-in for passage when it goes up for a vote later tonight. Democrats are unanimous in their support for funding Ukraine's war effort, while a majority of Republicans are in favor of continued funding for Ukraine.
McCarthy Changes Posture on Ukraine FundsInitially, the $300 million was to be included as part of a larger Department of Defense (DOD) funding bill.
However, its inclusion threatened to tank the DOD bill as a whole, as Democrats have been unanimous in their opposition to the measure. This means that to pass the bill, Mr. McCarthy can only lose a handful of Republican votes.
It is likely due to this situation that Mr. McCarthy, at the last minute, made the decision to separate the Ukraine funding from the larger defense package.
Thus it was that members of the House Rules Committee assembled at 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 to mark up the rule for the Ukraine funding to be considered the following day.
During that hearing, Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) blasted the markup, saying that Mr. McCarthy was skirting around the will of Congress to appease "extreme MAGA Republicans."
Specifically, Mr. McGovern was referencing a vote taken in the House on an amendment offered by Mr. Biggs on Sept. 27, just hours before the hearing.
The amendment proposed to slash the $300 million from the DOD funding bill altogether, but failed in a 330–104 vote.
Still, Mr. McCarthy, after this vote, changed course on including the Ukraine funding. Earlier, citing procedural difficulties, the speaker had said he would leave the Ukraine funds in the DOD bill.
Mr. McGovern decried this move during the hearing, saying, "Instead of accepting the loss, you’re rigging the rules against the will of the house. What is it with the Republicans and not being able to honor the result? Trumpism is alive and well here, because you’re about to overturn another vote.
"This is one of the most crooked things I’ve ever seen in my years here," he added.
“This is an attempt to cut off any support to Ukraine as they fight to defend their country from a brutal and illegal Russian invasion. This security assistance funding has been in the defense bill for years," Mr. McGovern said. "It has never been controversial until apparently now, when it is needed most.”
“Now they’re taking it out all because the pro-[Russian President Vladimir]Putin caucus demands it—the lives of Ukrainians be damned."
Later, speaking about the measure on the House floor, Mr. McGovern said, "This isn't even the Ukraine funding that [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky or the administration requested."
"This shouldn't be controversial."
"The House voted ... to keep Ukraine funding in the House defense bill," he said. "Yet House GOP leadership went to the Rules Committee & cut Ukraine aid anyway.
Republicans Support Splitting BillsChairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) had a different perspective.
While himself a supporter of Ukraine funding, Mr. Cole said splitting the bills up "creates an opportunity" for the House "to speak with one voice ... a bipartisan voice."
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) agreed.
"There are some people who can't in good conscience take a vote for the [Defense Department] [appropriations] bill if it includes money for a war that they are morally opposed to," Mr. Massie said. "They want to be able to fund our soldiers without sending money to Ukraine."
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said during the hearing, "I was prepared to vote for the defense bill with the funding in it even though I don’t support the funding. Separate it. [and] I will vote against the funding ... and vote for defense.
"But we have members who have very strong and reasonable feelings about their concerns about the dollars and how they are appropriated."
Speaking later on the House floor, Mr. Cole reiterated that splitting the two bills "sets up a discussion I think is important to have."
Specifically, he was referencing the fact that, by splitting the two bills, it would be more likely that the Ukrainian assistance bill would pass with bipartisan support.
He said that while he supported Ukraine funding, splitting up the bills allows those members opposed to further Ukraine funding "as a matter of conscience" to express their will on the matter while still supporting "an otherwise robust defense bill."
He added, "This resolution does something else that I think is very important: it sets up a debate about American policy toward Ukraine. This is a discussion I think is very valuable to have."
However, the removal of funding for Ukraine in the DOD bill is not the only conflict over Ukraine in the House.
Ms. Greene has also expressed deep opposition to the current rendering of the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill.
That bill includes roughly $50 billion that could be allocated to Ukraine at the State Department's discretion, Ms. Greene has said.
But Mr. McCarthy has said that removing this aspect of the bill is procedurally difficult, meaning that further disputes over Ukraine funding are likely in the coming days.
Additionally, a Senate-passed continuing resolution to keep the government would allocate $6 billion to Ukraine.