McConnell fights for his legacy as he sells a divided GOP on Ukraine funding

  • Mitch McConnell is making a very public push to support additional US support for Ukraine.

  • His advocacy comes as the Republican voters are increasingly divided on the topic.

  • Given his age and the stage in his career, this could be one of McConnell's final fights.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may be leading one of his most legacy-defining intra-party fights over tens of billions of dollars in funding to Ukraine.

On Monday, McConnell joined the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova at his namesake center at the University of Louisville. McConnell's public advocacy puts him at loggerheads with newly elected House SpeakerMike Johnson, who wants to split Ukraine and Israel aid and voted in favor of stopping military aid to Ukraine before his surprise election.

McConnell, like his friend President Joe Biden, has also faced questions about his health and his future. At 81, this could very well be the final massive piece of legislation the Kentuckian will be attached to given Congress' historic tendency to do little legislative work in presidential election years — though McConnell's allies have been quick to tamp down speculation about his status.


As Politico reported, this is a notable shift for McConnell. He is known in the Capitol for commenting sparingly and sometimes leaving his own colleagues out of the loop on his thinking. Now, he is making a very public push as polling shows Republican voters are increasingly skeptical of sending more of their tax dollars to Ukraine.

Ever the politician, McConnell did not directly criticize former President Donald Trump, Johnson, or even unnamed Republicans. Instead, the top Senate Republican singled out "loud voices on both sides of the aisle or suggesting somehow that American leadership isn't worth the cost.

"Some say our support for Ukraine comes at the expense of more important priorities," McConnell said at the event. "But as I say every time I got the chance, this is a false choice. False choice. America is a global superpower with global interests, and enemies of democracy around the world like nothing more than to outlast our resolve to resist Russian aggression."

McConnell reprised his label of the new "axis of evil," a reference to WWII to apply to China, Russia, and Iran.

"This is not just a test for Ukraine, this a test for the United States and the free world," McConnell said. "And the path toward greater security for all of us is simple: Help Ukraine win the war!"

The White House has asked for $105 billion for Israel, Ukraine, and to fund border security efforts. While some Senate Republicans are skeptical of Ukraine support, there is much greater opposition in the House.

Before former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's historic ouster, a conservative revolt forced leaders to strip Ukraine aid from the massive bill that funds the Pentagon. The House later passed the aid via a large bipartisan vote, but the size of the growing Republican opposition to future Ukraine aid was readily apparent. There is even a small minority, perhaps just Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, that are opposed to even a separate Israel aid package under the current circumstances.

"We are $33 trillion in debt, Washington needs to start working for America, reduce spending, and defend our own border as vigorously as Israel defends theirs," Greene wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, of the GOP-led $14.5 billion Israel aid package.

Johnson has also argued that aid to Israel should be offset by spending cuts, a position that is likely to further inflame tensions with Democrats. Before his surprise election, Johnson voted in favor of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz's amendment that would have prohibited all military assistance to Ukraine. The measure failed but 93 Republicans voted in favor of it.

Read the original article on Business Insider