Defense Hawks May Risk US Default to Fund Ukraine

Defense Hawks May Risk US Default to Fund Ukraine

The Senate’s passage of the debt ceiling is facing a fight from Republicans, both by fiscal conservatives seeking to block the deal and their GOP-rival defense hawks.

The Senate might risk the U.S. defaulting on its debt in order to keep the funding flowing for Ukraine to defend against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Without unanimous agreement on a voting and amendment deal, the Senate will not be able to begin voting on the legislation until Saturday, which could delay final passage until next week. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had said June 1 would put the U.S. at risk of default, but has since moved the X-date to June 5.

One emerging hang-up came from Republican senators complaining military spending, though boosted, was not increased enough — particularly as they eye supplemental spending that will be needed this summer to support Ukraine in the war against Russia.

“We need safety and security,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday. “To my House colleagues, I can’t believe you did this.”

Graham lamented the House-passed compromise left “not a penny in this bill to help Ukraine defeat Putin.”

“We need to send a clear message to Putin that when it comes to your invasion of Ukraine, we’re going to support the Ukrainians to ensure your loss,” Graham added, noting Ukrainian forces are on the verge of launching a major counteroffensive to escalate the battle to retake Russian-occupied territory in the south and east of Ukraine.

“If we don’t do that, then we’re going to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory,” Graham warned.

The opposite end of the Republican Party, including many members of the House Freedom Caucus, tied to block the deal for opposite reason: It does not cut enough.

Fiscal conservative Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, are vocal “no” votes and might use the amendment process to gum up the votes, if not add further spending cuts and reel in the Biden administration’s regulatory power.

But moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, wants to get an assurance there will be more spending, not less.

“We are exchanging language, and I certainly hope that we can get there with a commitment to bring the appropriations bills to the Senate floor, so that we’re never in a situation where we trigger the automatic 1%, across-the-board, indiscriminate cut,” said Collins, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Collins wants a promise in a “colloquy on the floor or a statement on the floor” from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to add a defense supplemental spending package to boost Ukraine aide.

“The second part would be a commitment for a defense supplemental, an emergency defense supplemental,” she said, The Hill reported.

Schumer said any successful amendment would mean sending the entire bill back to the House, which would “risk default, plain and simple.”

He did not rule out allowing some debate on amendments but would likely insist on a 60-vote threshold for adoption of the most popular, almost guaranteeing failure.

Count Graham as a staunch opponent.

“You cannot say with a straight face that this military budget is a counter to Chinese aggression, that it adequately allows us to defeat Putin,” Graham said on the Senate floor.

“You cannot say with a straight face that this budget represents the threats America faces.”

And, on the other side, Lee still hopes the Senate can sink the compromise made by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

“Long shot? Sure. But it’s possible if Republicans continue to realize — as many now are — that McCarthy got played by [Biden],” Lee said.

Schumer, his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell, and their emissaries spent much of Thursday trying to agree on timing for votes and ground rules for how the process will play out.

“I can tell you what I hope happens is that those who have amendments, if given votes, will yield back time so that we can finish this Thursday or Friday and soothe the country and soothe the markets,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday.

Information from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France Presse was used to compile this report.

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