https://www.newsweek.com-By Alex J. Rouhandeh
Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa speaks at a news conference with other members of GOP leadership behind her at the U.S. Capitol on December 07, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Ernst said she is not concerned about continued funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
The Biden administration asked Congress on Tuesday to provide $38 billion in funding to Ukraine, as the eastern European nation remains embroiled in a war to defend its territory against Russia and drive its military forces from its borders.
During the early stages of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s invasion, much of Congress crossed party lines in support of Ukrainian sovereignty. But in recent months some have expressed concern over the ongoing funding.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said in October that his conference would not write a “blank check” for Ukraine should he take the Speaker’s gavel and other members have expressed previous opposition to large scale funding.
Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, the only member of GOP leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee other than Florida Senator Rick Scott, who lost his leadership role on Wednesday in his unsuccessful bid to replace Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, told Newsweek she is confident that Ukraine funding will continue.
“I am not [concerned],” Ernst told Newsweek. “I’m just very much in support of Ukraine. I think that’s incredibly important that as the Ukrainians are willing to do the work, allow them to do the work.”
Ernst, a former lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, plays a leading role in military policy, specifically when it comes to “emerging threats and capabilities,” a subcommittee where she serves as ranking member.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Shalanda Young, the Biden administration’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the funds would be used to “ensure Ukraine has the funding, weapons, and support it needs to defend itself, and that vulnerable people continue to receive lifesaving aid.”
Ernst, who works closely with McConnell, has previously said that “defending freedom in Ukraine is defending freedom everywhere.” Amid the war, she has worked to decrease U.S. dependence on Russia by introducing legislation directing the U.S. to source minerals used to make defense equipment from other countries.
“When it comes to those rare earth minerals, though, it is important that we continue to work on those with our friends, what we call friend-shoring, near-shoring or doing them domestically,” she told Newsweek.
While Ernst remains focused on continued support for Ukraine as it looks to deal a blow to Russia, another Republican member of the Armed Services committee expressed frustration with the current spending strategy.
“I got concerns,” Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama told Newsweek. “I’m for Ukraine, but we gave $5-, $6-, $8 billion, and they say we want $40 billion. I’m totally against that much at one time.”
“They ask us for a lot of money, and you don’t know where the money is, you don’t know how much, where it’s going, what we’re doing with it,” he said. “Tell us what they want to do with it. If they want a billion dollars this month for this type of weapons and this type of missile, I’m fine with it, but not to just write a blank check to Ukraine.”
Tuberville is not alone in his concern. Other GOP senators on the Armed Services Committee, including Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, previously voted against a $40 billion measure passed in May to fund the war.
Ernst hears the concerns of members like Tuberville who are worried about “blank check(s)” being issued to fund the war. She told Newsweek that if the spending is tracked, she believes her conference will rally behind continued support.
“It’s not a blank check,” Ernst told Newsweek. “What it is though, we just have to make sure that we’re tracking the money that we’re spending. That way we can provide assurance to our voters and constituents.”
An October 21 report by the Congressional Research Service reports that the Biden administration has provided more than $20.3 billion in security assistance since Russia’s initial invasion. This report also details the number of different weapon systems that have been provided to the country.
With Democrats in control of the Senate and McConnell’s faction still on top within the upper chamber’s GOP caucus, Ukraine funding can be expected to continue in the Senate. But how an expected GOP-led House will impact that funding remains to be seen.