Update: Before midnight, President Joe Biden signed the temporary funding bill.
A partial “shutdown” of the federal government, which seemed inevitable amid battles over spending in both chambers of Congress, was averted after the House and Senate passed a stop-gap funding bill without any Ukraine aid on Saturday night. Passed before the midnight deadline, the bill will fund the government until November 17th at 2023 spending levels.
As a result of growing GOP opposition to massive spending on the White House’s proxy war with Russia, aid to Kyiv was dropped from the House leadership’s continuing resolution along with the spending cuts to various government agencies and additional border security funds desired by Republicans.
In order to secure passage of the bill, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) needed support from the other side of the aisle since GOP opposition to a short-term funding bill precluded the speaker’s slim majority vote.
“We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep the government open,” McCarthy said.
During an early closed-door meeting at the Capitol, many House Republicans urged their fellow members to find a way to prevent the “shutdown” eyeing some daunting reelections next year, the Associated Press reported.
The spending package was approved in the House with a vote of 335-91, with 90 Republicans and only one Democrat opposing. Then in a vote of 88-9, the Senate passed the bill as well. The continuing resolution does include an additional $16 billion for natural disasters with a separate vote on Ukraine aid expected soon.
According to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who voted against the funding bill Saturday night, this agreement on the war was part of a secret deal—made without GOP members’ knowledge prior to Saturday’s vote—between McCarthy and the Democrats.
“Wow. [McCarthy] made a side Ukraine deal with Democrats and didn’t tell House Republicans until after his Continuing Resolution passed. More deceit,” Gaetz wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Gaetz has also warned he will file a motion for a vote aimed at McCarthy’s ouster.
Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—an ardent supporter of the proxy war against the Kremlin—promised “I have agreed to keep fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine.”
Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-CO) explained that he briefly held up proceedings because he insisted Senate leaders issue a statement “underscoring that we’re going to spend the next 45 days working together to pass a robust Ukraine aid package.” Senate leadership, on both sides of the aisle, subsequently issued just such a statement.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) assured that the Senate would vote on another Ukraine aid package “in very short order,” as part of a larger funding package for the Pentagon or as a stand-alone bill. He also said he is confident that the House will have the votes necessary for Kyiv’s continued support in its war with Russia.
Another $24 billion in weapons and other aid for Ukraine has been requested by the White House. The US has already pledged $113 billion to Ukraine for the war mostly in military aid, with about $100 billion in weapons and military equipment having been transferred to Ukraine by the US and its allies. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, along with hawks in the legislature, have repeatedly declared the US policy is intended to “weaken” Moscow and cripple its military.
But Saturday’s vote came as Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive has utterly failed, with Ukrainian forces taking massive losses in personnel and equipment while netting no significant gains. Estimates suggest Ukraine’s casualties skyrocketed amidst the failed campaign, with tens of thousands of soldiers being killed during recent months.
Beyond strategic defeats, the proxy war’s popularity has greatly diminished among American voters. In August, a CNN poll exposed that most Americans oppose additional aid to Ukraine, with 55% of all respondents and 71% of Republicans saying Congress should not authorize any more spending.
Concurrently, the Joe Biden administration is rejecting calls to negotiate a ceasefire and is escalating the war. The US is aiding Kyiv’s myriad drone strikes on Crimea and the Russian mainland—including Moscow—by providing the necessary targeting intelligence.
At the same time, Washington is pouring cluster bombs into Ukraine, which are widely banned and notorious for killing civilians, while also sending Abrams tanks armed with toxic depleted uranium ammunition linked to cancer and birth defects.
The White House is preparing to soon provide Kyiv with long-range ballistic missiles, crossing Russia’s “red line.” The Pentagon is expected to send Ukraine the cluster bomb variant of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which have a range of almost 200 miles.
Earlier this year, the Discord Leaks revealed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desires to use “long-range missiles to hit targets inside Russia’s borders.”
Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.