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Speaker Kevin McCarthy has reversed course and announced that $300 million in aid to Ukraine will be included in the Defense appropriation bill heading to the House floor next week. Friday, Speaker McCarthy announced he had stripped Ukraine funding out of the Defense bill after cutting a deal to bring key aide, Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, on board. Instead of stripping the funding from the bill, McCarthy will allow a floor vote to do the same.
This nearly guarantees the bill, with Ukraine funding, will pass because any loss of Republican votes will be more than compensated for by Democrat votes. Matt Gaetz and some other GOP members had insisted that Defense, State, and Foreign Operations appropriations bills move forward together to protect them from the September 30 deadline to avoid constrained operations.
McCarthy acknowledged that he will lose Greene’s vote for the “rule” governing debate:
“I think Marjorie still has a problem,” McCarthy told reporters.
“I think she’ll vote no on the rule if it’s in there, that’s why I was trying to solve it where everybody could be there,” he later added. “But this one, it didn’t work out.”
But Gaetz and his allies had voted for the rule even when Rep. Greene opposed it, as Gaetz made clear when humiliating CNN’s paint-by-numbers interviewer Abbie Phillips earlier today (WATCH: Matt Gaetz Causes CNN Host to End Interview After Fact-Checking Her Live On-Air).
There are three things to keep in mind. First, the $300 million in the appropriation bills is chump change. Spending it or not spending it will not usher in a wonderous era of fiscal responsibility in Washington, nor will it increase profligacy on the part of the government. Voting against the Ukraine funding is simply to make a point that I must admit is lost on me. Every day, I try to wrap my head around the idea that there are conservatives who favor stronger countries carving up weaker neighbors as we do nothing. So far, I’m failing. Finally, the money appropriated is materially irrelevant if someone really wants to obstruct money going to Ukraine’s defense. On September 7, Defense released $600 million in weapons to Ukraine. This week, the Pentagon finalized another $325 million aid package. Over $5 billion…BILLION…more in military aid has been appropriated and not yet obligated.
What is at stake is not funding for Ukraine but McCarthy’s credibility as Speaker, as he tries to shepherd through Congress appropriation bills to prevent a government shutdown.