The Hill

Congress is open for business again, and the first order of business for new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson should be appropriating supplemental funds for crucial national security issues, including Ukraine.

After Rep. Kevin McCarthy was dramatically ousted as Speaker, America’s allies in Europe worried that Washington was losing its mettle and might soon abandon our partners in Ukraine just as they continued to make progress in their counteroffensive. Now, in the wake of the worst massacre of Jewish lives since the Holocaust and subsequent attacks on Gaza, America’s commitments abroad have taken on a new urgency.

There’s no time to waste.

There’s already a big appetite for prioritizing this funding among members of Congress. In recent days, hundreds of constituents from around the country traveled to Washington to push Congress to pass this supplemental package; this took place as part of the Ukraine Action Summit, which my organization, Razom for Ukraine, helped to organize. If you work on Capitol Hill, you probably saw hundreds of constituents meeting with offices to advocate for this funding.

In meeting after meeting, constituents found that most members of Congress get it: support for Ukraine remains largely bipartisan, and members of Congress want to act. President Joe Biden’s recent Oval Office address, his first on Ukraine, clearly laid out why this issue matters to Americans, and made a compelling case to Congress. “If we walk away and let Putin erase Ukraine’s independence,” Biden told the nation, “would-be aggressors around the world would be emboldened to try the same.”

Biden’s team smartly structured this $106 billion funding request by bundling related priorities; this strategy makes its passage more likely. After initially requesting Ukraine funding through only the end of the year, the White House is recalibrating and instead asking for enough to maintain steady support for Ukraine through much of 2024.

The president’s request also pairs Ukraine aid with funding for Israel, border security, and humanitarian aid for Gaza — issues that will draw more support from different corners of Congress. This is Senate veteran Joe Biden at his best: everyone gets something out of this supplemental, and voting against it is more politically fraught.

It’s also smart to do one substantial package of aid right now, in order to sidestep the issue of requiring Congress to approve aid to Ukraine every few months during a polarized election year.

Although 2024 isn’t here yet, each issue will be more politically charged, and the prospect of bipartisanship more bleak.

Despite vocal minorities in Congress that brought down McCarthy as Speaker and who oppose Ukraine aid, the majority of Americans and members of Congress alike want the U.S. to continue helping Ukrainians win.

An October Razom/Change Research poll found that 60 percent of American voters think a withdrawal of military support for Ukraine would be viewed by allies and enemies alike as weakness, while 69 percent think that America needs to unite its allies and defend friends like Ukraine and Israel that are under fire.

The poll also found that voters are more likely to support aid to Ukraine after learning about Russia’s brutal persecution of Christian clergy and faithful in occupied territory, by a 7-to-1 ratio. After learning about Russia’s persecution of Christian groups, self-described MAGA voters actually support aid to Ukraine 7 points more than the average voter.

Passing this supplemental will be heavily dependent on Speaker Mike Johnson. While he has voted both for and against different packages of aid to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion last year, he has plenty of reasons to get this supplemental across the finish line.

In February, he questioned whether Ukraine has been reliable partner for the U.S., posting to social media that “[American taxpayers] deserve to know if the Ukrainian government is being entirely forthcoming and transparent about the use of this massive sum of taxpayer resources.”

Speaker Johnson can put his mind at ease when it comes to oversight of U.S. aid to Ukraine. There is more oversight in place for Ukraine than just about any foreign aid in U.S. history, and each package of assistance has continually added on more accountability measures.

According to U.S. inspectors general, there have been zero substantiated cases of fraud or abuse of American aid to Ukraine. The U.S. embassy staff in Kyiv, all of whom volunteered to work in a warzone under constant air raids, are working with the rest of the U.S. government and international partners to track what’s given to Ukraine. Ukraine uses NATO-standard logistics systems and handheld scanners to physically track each piece of aid that arrives, making its location instantly accessible to U.S. officials. In other words, not only do both the U.S. and Ukraine have robust oversight mechanisms, U.S. government employees are actually tracking the aid in real time.

Ukraine also has a vibrant civil society of courageous journalists and tenacious anti-corruption watchdogs who push their own government to quash any corruption. The culture in Ukraine has changed — corruption is a life-or-death issue, and Ukrainians know that American aid can’t be abused. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy himself recently reiterated that corruption is tantamount to treason and that “Ukraine has no more time for that.”

Speaker Johnson has a monumental but crucial task ahead of him. Congress is on deadline, with a potential government shutdown looming in mid-November and with America’s friends around

the world fending off foes bent on their extermination. Americans stand with their friends abroad and want America’s might to be a force for right in the world.

Swift passage of supplemental appropriations to meet America’s national security obligations must be the top priority for Congress as it reopens for business. Americans and their friends overseas are counting on it.


Doug Klain is a policy analyst at Razom for Ukraine and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in Washington, DC. Find him on social media @DougKlain.