Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “strength” is being “tested” as he continues to fight to send tens of billions of dollars the U.S. doesn’t have to Ukraine while critics blast him for ignoring the invasion that is taking place on Joe Biden’s watch along the country’s southwestern border.
According to The Wall Street Journal, it appears as though securing aid for Ukraine has become “a legacy-defining issue” for the aging Kentucky Republican, as he “is facing questions over his grip on power.”
The outlet noted that McConnell, who has been a leader in the GOP for more than 20 years, is demanding that additional billions in aid and military support to Ukraine be part of a broader foreign aid package, which supporters say will boost chances for passage.
The broader measure, also favored by the Biden White House, has nevertheless hit roadblocks in the GOP-controlled House, where members believe that any additional support for Kyiv should be a stand-alone measure, or completely rejected, which has tested the GOP leader’s ability to secure enough Republican votes to pass it in the upper chamber.
“This rises above your typical domestic political dispute,” McConnell, in defending his stance on Ukraine, in its second year of fighting invading Russian troops, told the WSJ. “I think that the country’s future, and the Western world’s future, depends upon winning this. It’s going to take a long time to determine how that turns out. But I think this is the biggest issue in the world right now.”
The WSJ adds:
At 81 years old, McConnell has had a difficult year. He has been slowed by health setbacks, and many of his closest Senate allies retired after the last Congress. Former President Donald Trump, the likely 2024 GOP presidential nominee, has railed against Ukraine aid on the campaign trail and said he wants McConnell out as leader. GOP rivals are increasingly outspoken in crossing him, and his political protégé in his deep-red home state, Daniel Cameron, lost his run for governor to the Democratic incumbent this month.
While McConnell has pledged to remain Senate GOP leader through the end of the current Congress in early 2025, potential successors, including Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R., Texas) have been quietly positioning themselves for the day McConnell steps down.
McConnell told the outlet that he isn’t bothered by all the talk of a GOP successor.
“It’s not at all surprising, given my age and how long I’ve been in this job that there are others who may be looking at it,” McConnell told the outlet. “I don’t find that offensive, nor do I find it affecting my ability to lead because the people most likely to succeed me agree with me.”
The WSJ noted that most Democrats are on board with a broader spending package that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and even border enforcement, though it’s not clear what that latter looks like, given that critics say President Joe Biden’s policies have led to the current illegal migrant crisis and he shows no signs of wanting to reverse them. More likely, new money for ‘border enforcement’ would be spent on in-processing migrants and, perhaps, providing relief to blue “sanctuary” cities that have become inundated with migrants.
In any event, most of the GOP-controlled House and even some Republican senators do not want to continue throwing borrowed money at countries not named the United States without a lot more oversight.
“He’s going to be beaten on this,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator. “The big kitchen-sink approach to having Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, border—all that huge bill—I think it’s dead on arrival.”