House Republicans skeptical of linking U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine

WASHINGTON — As the Biden administration and lawmakers consider advancing U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine in a single package, many House Republicans are skeptical of the idea.

And the prospects of additional Ukraine funding will likely come down to whether a narrow — and currently leaderless — GOP majority can stomach it, presenting an important early decision that will confront the next House speaker, who is yet to be chosen.

Numerous Republicans lawmakers told NBC News that they’re skeptical — if not outright opposed — to connecting the two.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said Congress should first help Israel in the wake of the attack by Hamas, while continuing to debate the merits of continuing to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s war.

“We’ve got to do something for Israel today if we can, or tomorrow,” he told reporters Monday evening.

Asked why he separates the need to help the two U.S. allies who are under attack, Burgess said, referring to Ukraine and Israel, respectively: “One’s an argument that’s in process. The other is an acute need, and we need to tend to that first.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., an opponent of Ukraine aid, said they mustn’t be linked.

“No. They’re two separate matters. Not even the same at all,” she said. “Our government’s funding Ukraine’s government, funding the proxy war with Russia. Israel has their own government. Israel defends themselves. Two separate issues.”

“They shouldn’t be tied together. I will not vote to fund Ukraine. Absolutely not,” she added. “Israel is totally separate.”

The skepticism comes as the GOP appetite to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia has waned, driven by opposition from former Donald Trump and allies of his right-wing populist MAGA movement. In July, 70 House Republicans supported an amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to cut off military aid to Ukraine. In September, that grew to 93 Republicans.

It has sparked a battle within the party, as others like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., emphasize that a victory for Russia in Ukraine would destabilize the global order, benefit China and harm American national security. Many Republicans in both chambers share that view, but they’re confronting a party base that is turning against the idea of continuing to assist Ukraine.

Even some Republicans who favor aid to Israel and Ukraine are skeptical of linking them.

“They’re both needed. I wouldn’t want to connect one to the other,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. “I support both, but to hold one hostage for the other wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s in our national security interest and it’s morally right to help out both,” he said.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he’s open to linking aid to Israel and Ukraine in a larger package that tackles various foreign policy goals.

“Yeah, I think that’s a possibility — along with China, Taiwan, border security,” he said.

There is more widespread support for assisting Israel in both parties, although some progressive Democrats are suggesting that further aid come with strings attached and be paired with efforts to promote peace and stability. Still, Democrats are unlikely to stand in the way of President Joe Biden’s forthcoming requests on Israel, making it a safer bet than further aid for Ukraine.

The next Republican House speaker, in tandem with the Democratic-controlled Senate and Biden, will face a government funding deadline of Nov. 17. Funding for Israel or Ukraine could be part of appropriations bills or done separately. The speaker would have the power to hold or prevent votes in the full chamber.

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., flatly rejected the idea of linking funding for Israel and Ukraine: “No. I would not connect those two at all.”

He said he supports aid to Israel, but not to Ukraine.

“When it comes to Ukraine, there’s no plan,” Mast said. “There’s nobody that will tell you — and I get every plan doesn’t come to fruition exactly — but that says we expect this to be done in six days, six weeks, six months, six years; we expect Putin to be out or stay in Ukraine or you name it. There’s no plan associated with that. I don’t buy something that’s unrelated to a plan.”

He added: “I have every confidence that there’s a request for Israel, it’ll become very tied to very specific objectives.”

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