Apr 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

McConnell's victory lap on Ukraine aid

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference ahead of a vote on a foreign aid package

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks during a news conference ahead of a vote on a foreign aid package. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took a victory lap Tuesday with a harshly worded floor speech and a lengthy press conference, as a majority of Republicans are expected to fall in line on a $95 billion foreign aid package.

Why it matters: It could be one of McConnell's last big wins before he steps down from more than 15 years of leading the Senate GOP conference.

  • McConnell has been unwavering in his support for Ukraine in the face of a growing segment of the GOP that has embraced a more isolationist stance.

Zoom in: A majority of McConnell's conference bucked him by voting against a similar foreign aid package in February.

  • Nine of the detractors voted to end debate on the new package on Tuesday, which usually indicates a final "yes" vote.
  • Just one Republican who voted "yes" in February looks set to flip to a "no."

What he's saying: McConnell denounced the "dithering and hesitation" over the foreign aid bill, which he said has hurt Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression, in his floor speech.

  • He criticized President Biden for being "too skittish" and not acting fast enough to get Ukraine the money it needed and said he would not "mince words when members of my own party take the responsibilities of American leadership lightly."
  • He took shots at conservative media personality Tucker Carlson for the "demonization of Ukraine," saying Carlson "ended up where he should have been all along, which is interviewing [Russian President] Vladimir Putin."

The bottom line: As McConnell's leadership comes to an end, it's unclear whether future Republican leaders will continue to fight for this kind of assistance to U.S. allies.

  • The two contenders to replace McConnell — Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) voted for the foreign aid package in February and voted yes on cloture Tuesday afternoon.
  • But the expected future whip Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) voted no on Tuesday's procedural vote, saying he "cannot vote for a national security bill that neglects the security of our nation," he said in a statement.
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