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Ukraine funding bill: These 11 Republican senators split from party leadership, opposed $40 billion in aid

In a split with party leaders, 11 Senate Republicans Thursday voted against a bill to send $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the nation nears its fourth month. 

Despite some GOP opposition, the bill passed by a final tally of 86-11, with the support of leadership from both parties and a significant majority of Republican senators. It will now go to President Biden’s desk. 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., led the opposition to the bill, demanding an inspector general be appointed to oversee the spending. The U.S. total financial commitment to the Russian war on Ukraine will now total nearly $54 billion. 

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: PUTIN’S WAR CONTINUES, BUT UKRAINIAN SPIRITS ARE STILL HIGH

Paul was joined voting against the bill Thursday by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Boozman, R-Ark., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. 

All of those Republicans voted “no” in previous procedural votes to advance the bill. No Democrats voted against the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who visited Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy over the weekend, has pushed for the Senate to pass the bill since last week. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pose for a photo in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 14.

“Today, the Senate will approve more lethal assistance for Ukraine. And it’s going to be a bipartisan landslide,” McConnell said Thursday ahead of the vote. “Anyone concerned about the cost of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger costs should Ukraine lose.”

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But the senators opposing the bill gave differing reasons for why, including opposition to the general policy and concern about a lack of oversight. 

“I just think this is an exercise in nation building,” Hawley told Fox News Thursday. “So I’m a nationalist. I’m not in favor of nation building. I think we ought to be prioritizing American strength.”

“I’m not against the why, I’m against the how we’re doing it,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said Thursday. “I’m all for giving them, you know, money every month for a while. But when you take money like we’re doing, $40 billion and just throwing it out there, how do you keep up with it?”

Senator Mike Braun, R-IN, questions FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing June 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

“Underlying policy, I’m okay with,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said outside the Senate floor Thursday. “If we had actually paid for it and not borrowed the money… and when we’re spending money over there, we ought to be asking the EU to match it dollar for dollar.”

Braun said that he “probably” would have voted for the Ukraine aid if there was a deal to pay for it and if the U.S. convinced the European Union increase its commitment to Ukraine’s defense. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks to the media after a Democratic policy luncheon, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., meanwhile, said he shared concerns of senators like Tuberville on fiscal responsibility. But the war in Ukraine is just too important, he said. 

“We would have paid for this, we could have done it easily, we should have done that. And quite honestly we should have included Rand Paul’s amendment to get the special investigator in Afthanistan on the case right away to review this,” Johnson said. “But the fact that we need to replenish our stocks, so that’s about $10 billion at least in terms of spending on that. And we simply cannot tolerate or reward Putin’s naked aggression here, you know – the atrocities, the war crimes.” 

Johnson added: “I know it’s a third of the world away but I’m not going to let perfect be the enemy of what is necessary.”

Paul, meanwhile, complained about the fact the bill isn’t paid for at a time Americans are struggling with inflation. 

“If Congress really believed giving Ukraine $40B was in our national interest, they could easily pay for it by taxing every income taxpayer $500,” he tweeted Thursday. “My guess is they choose to borrow the $ bc Americans might just decide they need the $500 more to pay for gas.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are railing against Republicans for the fact they delayed the Ukraine funding bill by a full week. “Senator Paul’s obstruction of Ukraine funding is totally unacceptable, and only serves to strengthen Putin’s hand in the long run,” Schumer said this week. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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