U.S. aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia faces a rocky road in Congress

Chicago Rep. Mike Quigley, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, was the only Democrat to vote against the stopgap measure averting a government shutdown.

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Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., on the House floor last week opposing sending more aid to Ukraine.

Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., on the House floor last week opposing sending more aid to Ukraine.

Rep, Mary Miller video

WASHINGTON — A federal government shutdown was averted on Saturday, but just for 45 days. Aid for Ukraine is a House GOP sticking point, so it was dropped from the measure.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a leading Ukraine backer, was the only Democrat to vote against the stopgap bill, a move made to protest zero funds for Ukraine in the legislation.

In an interview Sunday, Quigley, from Chicago, a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said securing more aid for Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion faces a difficult road ahead.

House and Senate Democrats and most Senate Republicans are united about helping Ukraine. A small but potent number of House Republicans are in opposition.

“My frustration is we have done considerable damage in the unity of the West,” Quigley said, a reference to U.S. allies in Europe. “What we said to the West was the only way we can keep the government flowing and functioning is that we take out Ukraine funding.”

Quigley’s district, anchored on Chicago’s North and Northwest sides, has a large concentration of Ukrainian Americans and includes parts of the city’s Ukrainian Village community.

Quigley said stripping out Ukraine aid was a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It’s like, OK, you know Putin, you may be right. If you wait long enough and you treat your people like cannon fodder, you might win.”

Here’s an explainer of what happened, why and what’s ahead for Ukraine funding:

Speaker McCarthy antagonist calls for his ouster; will Ukraine aid be bargaining chip?

House Republicans control the chamber by a four-member margin, so House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is at the mercy of a small group of MAGA Republicans. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fl., is McCarthy’s leading antagonist.

On Saturday, with a 335-91 vote, McCarthy passed the 45-day stopgap measure with more Democrats voting for it than Republicans. The temporary funding runs through Nov. 17.

Democrats backed the short-term funding bill, 209-1, with Quigley the solo dissenter. The funding bill got 126 Republican yes votes and 90 no votes. The three Illinois Republicans in the House, Mike Bost, from Murphysboro; Mary Miller, from Oakland; and Darin LaHood, from Peoria, voted no.

Gaetz on Sunday told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that he will seek to dump McCarthy because of the compromise deal the speaker made with Democrats.

“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week,” Gaetz said. Current House rules give power to just a single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.

A few of the most militant MAGA House members may support Gaetz’s move to get rid of McCarthy. Given McCarthy’s tiny hold, he would need Democratic votes to survive as speaker.

And what does this have to do with Ukraine funding?

House Democrats could rescue McCarthy. But it would have to come with a price. Ukraine funding is a massive bargaining chip.

McCarthy on Sunday revealed his big chip.

McCarthy linking Ukraine aid to U.S. border deal: “Border first”

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McCarthy told host Margaret Brennan, “The priority for me is America and our borders. Now, I support being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need. But I firmly support the border first. So we’ve got to find a way that we can do this together.”

He added, “I’m going to make sure that the weapons are provided for Ukraine, but they’re not going to get some big package if the border is not secure.”

Rep. Miller: “Ukraine is not the 51st state”

Miller, a MAGA Republican, has a track record of opposing aid to Ukraine. She recently spoke on the House floor against Ukraine funding next to a sign with the words “Ukraine is not the 51st state.”

Her comments represent the mindset of GOP hardliners who McCarthy is trying to appeal to by linking Ukraine aid to border security.

Miller said President Joe Biden “has forced Americans to foot the bill” for Ukraine “while our southern border is being invaded by terrorists, drug cartels, gangs and human traffickers.”

Will Ukraine funding get an up-or-down vote?

House Democratic leaders late Saturday called on McCarthy to let members vote up-or-down on Ukraine. That’s a long shot given McCarthy’s insistence for a border first measure.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats, could do a separate vote.

The stopgap measure sailed through the Senate on a 88-9 vote Saturday, with Republicans providing the nays.

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., back more Ukraine aid.

Biden on Sunday called on GOP leaders to deliver on previous pledges to vote on a stand-alone Ukraine funding bill. Said Biden, “We cannot, under any circumstance, allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”

The 45-day clock is ticking.

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