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The White House has a message for Ukraine aid skeptics
As the administration prepares to ask Congress for more money to help Ukraine fight back against Russia, shifting political dynamics make this request more complicated than previous ones.
BIDEN’S BIG ASK • The White House today is expected to formally request additional funding for Ukraine, as the country finds itself in a stymied counteroffensive against Russia — the neighbor that invaded it almost 18 months ago.
The difference between now and then is that public opinion was squarely behind President Joe Biden at the outset of the war when he flexed his decades of foreign policy experience and deep diplomatic relationships to unite the West against Vladimir Putin’s thuggery.
Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress at the time, which sidelined the vocal minority of House conservatives opposed to Ukraine assistance in a way that is nonexistent under the current House Republican majority.
These shifting dynamics will factor into whether the administration’s ask is fulfilled — and how much political capital it may have to spend to get its desired result.
“WHERE DOES IT STOP NEXT?” • Questions have recently emerged about whether Biden has done enough to maintain support for investing billions in taxpayer dollars to help President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine defend his turf.
New polling from CNN last week found the majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine, with 51 percent saying the US has already done enough to help Ukraine. In the early days of the war in February 2022, 62 percent of Americans felt the US should have been doing more. Today, that number stands at 48 percent.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby acknowledged the skeptics during a call with reporters on Wednesday.
“If some Americans don’t feel [the importance of supporting Ukraine] or sense that, well, you know, I think it’s important to remember that if we just sit back and let Putin win, if we let him take Ukraine, where does it stop next?” he said.
Kirby added that those with concerns that the financial costs consider the money and bodies — some of whom could be American — if Putin conquers Ukraine and is empowered to attack a NATO ally in the same way.
“Because we obviously have a security commitment to protect our NATO allies,” he said. “So this is a fight that’s much bigger than just about Ukraine sovereignty, though it is first and foremost about that.”
THE McCARTHY OBSTACLE • Kirby indicated the White House plans to focus on the solid congressional support, across chamber and party, of previous rounds of Ukraine funding as proof that the two sides can figure it out again.
“We’re gonna stay focused on that because it’s important. It’s not just important to Ukraine But it’s important to our European allies and partners, particularly our NATO allies, given the fighting is on the doorstep of many of those NATO allies,” he said. “But it’s also important to the national security of the American people.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has expressed doubt that the Ukraine aid is so important that it requires a separate funding package outside of the yearly appropriations bills Congress is currently considering.
Plus, Biden’s budget request for the military was fully funded in the deal McCarthy cut with the president in May to raise the debt ceiling. From the speaker’s perspective, the president should have asked for the money he needed during the negotiations. The White House’s rebuttal? It wouldn’t have mattered anyway since McCarthy reneged on the deal two weeks after it passed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sees it differently.
The Kentucky Republican views American support for Ukraine as a deterrent to China from claiming Taiwan or other Asian territories by force, a message he relayed to constituents in the Bluegrass State on Wednesday.
McConnell added that Ukraine aid provides an economic boost here at home.
“Most of the money that we spend related to Ukraine is actually spent in the US, replenishing weapons, more modern weapons,” McConnell said. “So, it’s actually employing people here and improving our military for what may lie ahead.”
In June, McConnell reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a handful of Senate defense hawks, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), to speed up the process of approving the debt limit deal before the markets got spooked ahead of the default deadline.
The leaders promised in part to bring up a supplemental to provide additional money to the Pentagon or respond to a national emergency. McCarthy rejected the idea almost immediately.
House Democrats are content to rise above the fray and leave the thorny task of governing to the GOP majority. Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the number-three House Democrat, did warn against ceding the debate to the House GOP’s anti-Ukraine caucus.
“We don’t have a request for supplemental but I think drawing that red line and standing with folks who don’t support Ukraine right now is a place we shouldn’t go,” he said at the time. “But that’s a question better left for House Republicans than House Democrats.”
LOOKING AHEAD • Another question is the legislative vehicle that would carry a Ukraine bill. If a supplemental is out of the equation, then senators could try to attach aid to one of the dozen appropriations bills Congress has to pass by the end of September.
It’s unlikely those bills will move through both chambers by then. So lawmakers will have to pass a stopgap funding bill — known as a “continuing resolution” — to avoid a government shutdown. There’s a world where Ukraine funding hitches a ride in a CR.
In this world, such a move would probably cost McCarthy more conservative defections than the five he can afford, which means he’d need Democrats to push a bill over the finish line.
Democrats outnumbered Republicans on the debt limit deal, which led to a mutiny by the conservative rebels that forced McCarthy to shut down the House floor for five days. The notion that this could happen again could spook the speaker from even bringing a CR to the floor.
While Congress sorts it all out next month, Kirby said Biden will stay in his lane.
“The president will continue to make the case that the greater national security obligations are at play here, including our national security, and the national security commitments that we have made through the NATO alliance,” Kirby said. “All that is potentially at stake here.”
👋🏾 HI, HEY, HELLO! Good Thursday morning. It’s August 10, 2023. Thanks for reading Supercreator Daily, the essential guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. Where do you stand on the issue of Ukraine funding? Get in touch: email@example.com.
IN THE KNOW
CBC RESPONDS TO LATEST DESANTIS SUSPENSION • The Congressional Black Caucus condemned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to suspend Monique Worrell, the Orange-Osceola County state attorney, and only Black female state attorney duly elected in Florida.
“Make no mistake, State Attorney Worrell has done nothing wrong. This abuse of power by Gov. DeSantis is not only an attack on Democratic Black leaders in Florida but an attack on our democracy itself,” the CBC, led by Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) and Chairman Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), said in a statement. “Her removal is yet another marker in the long, conservative waged war against the will of Black people in the state of Florida, and we will not stand by as it happens.”
DeSantis claimed Worrell, who was elected with over 65 percent of the vote in her county, failed to enforce Florida mandatory minimum sentences on charges that included gun crimes, drug trafficking, and child sex abuse material. Worrell has vowed to seek reelection next year.
DeSantis suspended state attorney Andrew Warren earlier this year, a decision a federal judge ruled against. But there was no mechanism to reinstate Warren to his position.
DiFi BRIEFLY HOSPITALIZED AFTER FALL • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) went to the hospital on Tuesday after she tripped and fell in her San Francisco, TMZ reported and her office confirmed on Wednesday.
Leader Schumer said he spoke with the 90-year-old senator, who told him she suffered no injuries and went to the hospital as a precaution. Feinstein missed three months earlier this year while recovering from shingles, Ramsay Hunt syndrome, and encephalitis and resisted calls for resignation while she was out. (Feinstein will retire at the end of her term next year.)
In the divided Congress where few bills beyond those lawmakers have to pass will reach President Biden’s desk, Feinstein’s value is on the Judiciary Committee where Senate Democrats can still advance Biden’s agenda to rebalance the federal courts with simple majorities.
Since her return to the Senate in May, 14 judges have been confirmed by the Senate with another nine advanced out of committee. The Senate approved 14 of the 71 judges confirmed in 2023 while she was out earlier this year.
ALLRED GOES ON THE ROAD • Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), candidate to replace Republican Ted Cruz in the US Senate, launched a statewide tour where he will travel and listen to Texans share the challenges facing them and their communities.
The “Lone-Star Listening Tour” kicked off in El Paso on Wednesday with additional stops in Houston, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, and Austin with more cities to be announced in the coming days.
PORTER TARGETS THE PENTAGON • Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) introduced a package of bills to increase accountability for the Defense Department and protect servicemembers’ health and financial well-being. Five of the six bills, which were originally submitted as amendments to the 2024 House NDAA, passed as part of previous House NDAAs with broad bipartisan support. The sixth is a new proposal with three Republican cosponsors.
HOGG, LATA LAUNCH GEN-Z PAC • March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg launched Leaders We Deserve, a grassroots organization to elect more progressive Gen-Z candidates to Congress and state legislatures across the country.
The group will recruit candidates and provide them with day-to-day support, a volunteer network, and expertise for paid media campaigns — all with the mission of lowering the barriers to entry for young, nonwhite, and non-wealthy people.
Hogg co-founded LWD with Kevin Lata, 2022 campaign manager for Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first Gen-Z person elected to Congress. Watch the LWD launch video.
WH CURTAILS PRIVATE CHINESE INVESTMENTS • President Biden signed a new executive order that bans American private equity firms from investing in China’s technology industry, including emerging areas like artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Read more about the EO.
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All times Eastern
10 a.m. President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing in Salt Lake City, Utah.
12:15 p.m. The president will speak about the one-year anniversary of the PACT Act at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Salt Lake City.
2:30 p.m. President Biden will speak at a campaign fundraiser in Park City, Utah.
4:25 p.m. The president will leave Salt Lake City to return to the White House, arriving at 9:20 p.m.
The Vice President is in Washington and has no public events on her schedule.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
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