Ukraine Supporting Lawmakers Face Uphill Battle

Ukraine supporters on Capitol Hill are promising to fight on as further funding for President Volodymyr Zelensky was excluded from the deal preventing a government shutdown. Now-ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rushed the agreement through the House just in time to avoid a shutdown, but while Republicans did not get the cuts they sought – ultimately leading to McCarthy’s downfall – further funding for Ukraine was out.

Pro-Zelensky voices in Congress are beginning to acknowledge that the hill they climb is growing steeper as Republican objections gain traction. For example, almost half of the GOP voted to remove a $300 million aid package from defense spending legislation in September, forcing it to become a stand-alone bill. The package was intended to fund the training of Ukrainian soldiers and weapons acquisition.

GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said several Republicans want the legislation separated because they wish to continue US defense spending without supporting a war they morally oppose. House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) agreed and said, “For many members and their constituents, a vote on funding for Ukraine as part of the ongoing war is a matter of conscience.”

The vote to remove funding came only days after Zelensky made another personal appeal, but one that appears largely to have fallen on deaf ears. Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer said Zelensky’s message could be summed up in one sentence; “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.” But it was not enough to persuade the GOP.

Dwindling Republican support for Ukraine appears to be accompanied by a drop in public support. In August, a CNN poll found that 55% of Americans do not want to provide more funds for the Ukrainian war – down from 62% at the outbreak of the conflict. Whether Americans approve of offering help to Ukraine depends on the type of help provided. For example, 63% still support assisting with intelligence gathering and 53% with training.