House Republicans plan to pressure the Biden administration to substantially ramp up oversight into the nearly $20 billion worth of weapons the US has shipped to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February.
Monitors have only conducted two in-person inspections of the shipments as of Nov. 1 — amounting to about 10% of the 22,000 weapons the US has so far provided Ukraine, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Officials told the newspaper that the State Department has a limited budget for weapons inspectors in Ukraine, and that the Biden administration is taking measures not to be seen as becoming directly involved for fear of escalating the war.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told the Washington Post that there are practical limitations in monitoring the shipments, noting that they are performed “when and where security conditions permit” but do not take place “near the front line of Russia’s war against Ukraine.”
But Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), likely to be the House speaker when the House convenes after the first of the year in Republican control, has warned the Biden administration that there will be no “blank check” for Ukraine.
And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conservative firebrand from Georgia, and a handful of Republicans unveiled a resolution this month for an audit of the funds Congress has allocated for Ukraine.
She said she would reintroduce the resolution when Republicans take over the chamber.
“I’ll introduce this resolution again, but I’ll also be calling for a full audit. We voted ‘no’ to send money over there, but we’re also going to audit what’s happening in Ukraine,” she said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believes there is GOP House support for continued aid to Ukraine, but with conditions for accountability when asked about McCarthy’s “blank check” comment.
“I think the majorities on both sides of the aisle support this effort. I think, you know, everybody has a voice in Congress. You know, and the fact is, we are going to provide more oversight, transparency and accountability. We’re not going to write a blank check,” McCaul of Texas said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“We have a voice now and we’re going to do this in an accountable way, with transparency to the American people. These are American taxpayer dollars going in,” he said.
Rep. Mike Turner, the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he personally reassured Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky that there will be continued bipartisan support once the Republicans control the House.
But the funding will no longer have to be included in “Democrat bills.”
“We don’t need to pass $40 billion large Democrat bills … to send $8 billion to Ukraine,” he said on “This Week.”
“What we’re going to do - and it’s been very frustrating, obviously, even to the Ukrainians where they hear these large numbers in the United States as a result of the burgeoned Democrat bills and the little amount of aid that they receive. We’re going to make certain they get what they need,” the Ohio Republican said.
Another Republican House member, Rep. Mike Waltz, told the Washington Post that the level of oversight that exists now is not sufficient.
“With the volumes of goods that we’re pushing, it’s our responsibility to have third-party oversight. We do it all over the world,” Waltz (R-Fla.) told the newspaper.
Waltz said he believes as do other lawmakers that the US must continue to support Ukraine militarily but worries that the Biden administration is fearful of using Americans to keep an eye on how Ukraine is using the weapons.
He suggested using US veterans who are on the ground in Ukraine as subcontractors to report to the State Department and the Pentagon on the deployment of US weapons near the front.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger, pushed the House Armed Services Committee to include instructions in the defense bill for auditing and reviewing the Pentagon’s shipments to Ukraine.
“The taxpayers deserve to know that investment is going where it’s intended to go,” he told the Washington Post.
But he acknowledged that “there can be missteps and misallocation of supplies” during wartime and brushed off suggestions that the Biden administration was too lax.
“We’re not playing a mission of perfection here. This is a brutal, large-scale land war — house to house, street to street, trench to trench. There will be things lost,” he said. “We’re not trying to prevent every single piece from falling into the hands of the Russians, but we want to make sure it’s not happening at a large scale.”
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