House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced on Saturday that the House would vote on a Pentagon funding bill that includes aid for Ukraine. Initially, the Congressman said the $300 million in aid for Kyiv would be voted on separately from the annual Department of Defense spending bill.
Congress is seeking to pass spending bills before funding for the government runs out at the end of the month. Politicians are warning that if legislation is not passed by then Washington will enter a “government shutdown.” Despite the connotation, most of the American government will continue to function even if Congress does not provide funding. Last week, the White House announced that military aid to Ukraine will persist whether there is a “shutdown” or not.
Both houses of Congress recently passed significantly different versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As that bill is likely to face significant debate, it is unlikely to pass prior to the end of the month when current funding runs out.
To advert some departments of the government from being shut down, Speaker McCarthy plans to pass appropriations bills for the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and USDA. The appropriations legislation would differ from an NDAA as it would only impact funding levels and not change policy.
On Friday, McCarthy said that due to significant concern about providing funding to Ukraine, he would strip a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that provided $300 million in assistance for Kyiv. A day later, the Speaker reversed course saying his plan did not have the votes to pass. “It became too difficult to do that, so we’re leaving it in,” he said.
It is unclear if the move will garner enough votes to pass the Pentagon funding legislation. McCarthy’s strategy calls on picking up votes from across the aisle at the expense of Republican support. Last week, 28 members of the House signed a letter saying they would not support any additional aid for Ukraine.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is seeking a third option. He would like to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to continue to fund the entire government at current spending levels. Schumer additionally wants to attach a $24 billion aid package to Ukraine within the CR. The $24 billion package is separate from the $300 million in funding attached to McCarthy’s defense appropriations bill.
The Speaker plans to allow a vote that would strip any aid to Ukraine out of the funding bills for the Department of Defense and State. However, the motion is likely to fail as an overwhelming majority in Congress still firmly supports sending more tax dollars to Kyiv.