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22 Oct, 2023 21:25

Top Republican lawmaker backs Biden’s Ukraine aid plan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that US support for Kiev and Israel is “interconnected”
Top Republican lawmaker backs Biden’s Ukraine aid plan

The top-ranking Republican in the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, has voiced support for President Joe Biden’s plan to bundle military aid for Ukraine and Israel in a $106 billion emergency funding bill rather than allowing lawmakers to vote on the two issues separately.

“We have big power competition from China and Russia, and we still have terrorism problems, as the Israelis have certainly experienced in a brutal way in the last week,” McConnell said on Sunday in a CBS News interview. “So, I think it requires a worldwide approach, rather than trying to take parts of it out. It’s all connected.”

The Biden administration unveiled its bundled aid proposal on Friday, seeking legislative approval to provide an additional $61.4 billion for Ukraine’s conflict with Russia and $14.3 billion to support Israel in its war with Hamas. Biden also wants $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, as well as $7.4 billion to fund special geopolitical initiatives against China. To sweeten the package for Republicans troubled by the country’s illegal immigration crisis, the administration also included $13.6 billion in extra funding for border security.

McConnell argued that with China and Russia strengthening their ties and Iran allegedly supplying drones for use against Ukraine and Israel, it makes sense to combine the various security measures into one bill. He said it’s a “mistake” for Republican lawmakers to support aid to Israel while opposing more funding for Ukraine. “I view it as all interconnected,” the Kentucky Republican added.

There’s an axis of evil in the world: China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.”

Congress previously approved $113 billion in Ukraine aid in four rounds of legislation. Republicans in the House of Representatives have increasingly opposed Biden’s Ukraine policy. With funding for Kiev running out, Biden tried unsuccessfully to get additional aid included in a stopgap spending bill that was passed late last month to avert a government shutdown.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of his leadership post earlier this month, the first such congressional ouster in US history, reportedly after some of his fellow Republicans heard that he had promised Biden a separate Ukraine aid bill following passage of the stopgap funding resolution.

McConnell said funding the Ukraine conflict is a good investment for Washington, partly because much of the money is being spent domestically to replace weaponry sent to Kiev with more modern munitions. “No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine,” he said. “We’re rebuilding our industrial base. The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that.”

Asked whether US aid to Israel should come with strings attached to prevent human rights violations in Gaza, McConnell said, “Israel is our strongest ally in the world. We trust them, and we have a very tight relationship with them, both on the intelligence side and the military side. So, I don't think the kind of oversight we’re talking about for Ukraine, for example, would be necessary for Israel.” 

McConnell argued that Biden needs to be “tougher” with Iran and should halt efforts to revive the 2015 deal to restrict development of Tehran’s nuclear program. “They’re funding Hezbollah, Hamas, creating problems all over the Middle East, and we shouldn’t be doing any business with them,” he said.

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