Schumer says briefing highlighted ‘unanimity’ on aid to Ukraine

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to note that national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s briefing was for senators.

Leading Democrats and Republicans are unanimous in thinking that the United States should provide more military and financial assistance for Ukraine, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday after a closed-door briefing on the state of the Russia-Ukraine war. 

“The briefing made it so clear that we need to continue significant aid to Ukraine,” he told reporters.

“Our aid is making a difference, but we’re at an inflection point and turning back now would have very disastrous consequences for Ukraine, and in general for our foreign policy.”

Schumer said that leading Democrats and Republicans in the room expressed “unanimity on the need for more aid, and we’re going to figure out the best way to get it.”

The briefing was provided by national security adviser Jake Sullivan for the Senate. House lawmakers are expected to receive a briefing next week.

President Biden sent Congress a request last month for $24 billion in more funding for Ukraine, part of a larger $40 billion supplemental funding request.  

 But it’s unclear how lawmakers will look to pass the funds.

A small but vocal minority of House Republicans oppose all aid for Ukraine and could disrupt or block congressional efforts to pass spending bills. Some members have also linked their support for government funding to the opening of an impeachment investigation into Biden, or to deep spending cuts that go further than a deal reached over the summer.

Schumer did not address a question over whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was on board with how to pass Ukraine aid. Infighting among lawmakers is raising alarm among allies, particularly in eastern Europe, that a distracted Washington would push Ukraine into early negotiations with Russia. 

Schumer said that lawmakers are resolute in confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“If Putin thinks he can outlast us and win … it’s the view of many in the room, that this won’t be the last time that he goes into a different country,” the leader said.

Some Senate Republicans have opposed tying aid to Ukraine to disaster assistance for Hawaii, Florida and other states hit by natural disasters.

“Disaster relief is something we should have done back in June. It’s just to replenish the emergency fund,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told the Hill.

He called it a “mistake” to link it with disaster relief.  

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) called for a supplemental for Ukraine to accompany other defense spending. 

“I do think though, having the discussion in that context, or even having it in the context of Ukraine itself is better than having it feel like it’s being forced on us in a CR [continuing resolution] or disaster relief or something like that — that will not fly with members because it won’t fly with the people we work for.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he’s hopeful of a large majority supporting aid to Ukraine, but he also said the battle is becoming more difficult.

“I think there’s still a large majority, hopefully,” he said. “But I mean, I think it gets harder every time.”

Laura Kelly reported from Poland and Aris Folley reported from Washington.

–Updated on Sept. 8 at 7:03 a.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Jake Sullivan John Thune Kevin Cramer Kevin McCarthy russia ukraine Vladimir Putin