The Senate minority leader said arming Kiev to “defeat” Russia tops the agenda of “most Republicans”
The US’ top priority should be funding and arming Ukraine so it can beat Russia on the battlefield, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday ahead of a visit by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
“Making sure the Defense Department can deal with the major threats coming from Russia and China, providing assistance for the Ukrainians to defeat the Russians, that’s the number one priority of the United States right now, according to most Republicans,” McConnell said during the press conference.
The Republican’s declaration came as he pledged his support to a massive omnibus spending bill, released in the wee hours of Tuesday morning on the eve of a government shutdown. The package includes $45 billion in aid for Ukraine, including $9 billion in security assistance, bringing the total amount Washington has promised Kiev to over $95.7 billion.
Not everyone in McConnell’s party was pleased with his priorities, however. Representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Georgia) denounced the latest largesse as “absurd,” urging the senator to “Put America First!!!” while suggesting her fellow Republicans call and “tell him what you think about the nearly $2 trillion Omnimonster” – a reference to the 4,155-page bill. Several other Republican congressmen argued the crisis at the US’ southern border, which has seen record numbers of illegal migrants crossing this year, should be number one on the party’s list of priorities.
House Minority Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who promised no more “blank checks” to Ukraine if Republicans retook the House of Representatives, also came out against the omnibus bill. He warned McConnell that any legislation he brought to the floor would be “dead on arrival” in the coming congressional term if the senator backed the package, which McConnell’s fellow Kentucky senator Rand Paul condemned as “$1.7 trillion in hazardous debt.”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky met with his American counterpart Joe Biden on Wednesday, his first state visit since the start of Russia’s military operation in February, and is expected to address Congress later in the day. The US president used the occasion to announce a further $1.8 billion in military assistance to Kiev on top of the omnibus bill, including the Patriot missile systems it has been demanding for months.
Russia has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that shipments of increasingly modern and long-range weapons could lead to a direct confrontation between Moscow and NATO, and accused the West of prolonging the conflict and causing needless deaths in Ukraine.