Kevin McCarthy’s Priorities — Cut Aid to Ukraine and Ignite a Debt Ceiling Showdown
Author: Greg Valliere
October 19, 2022
IF THERE’S A SLEEPER ISSUE in this fall’s elections, it’s the growing opposition — stirred by Fox TV’s Tucker Carlson — to sending more U.S. money to Ukraine.
The U.S. has given Kyiv close to $20 billion in military aid; total assistance, including humanitarian aid, is about $60 billion.
SENSING AN OPPORTUNITY TO APPEASE the insurgent House right wing, McCarthy said this week: “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession next year,” and they’re not going to write “a blank check to Ukraine. They just won’t do it.”
MAINSTREAM REPUBLICANS, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and most Democrats, have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine. But several GOP candidates — strong supporters of Donald Trump — have been outspoken in their opposition. They include J.D. Vance in Ohio, Blake Masters in Arizona, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Adam Laxalt in Nevada.
POLLS SHOW ABOUT A THIRD of Republican voters oppose more aid to Ukraine; many cite a need to focus on economic issues at home. A similar percentage of Democrats also have misgivings. A third of U.S. voters is not enough — yet — to block more aid, but the pendulum may be shifting on this issue.
McCARTHY HAS OTHER OBJECTIVES: He wants to preserve the Trump tax cuts, many of which are scheduled to expire in the middle of the decade. This will be a major GOP talking point in the 2024 elections but President Biden would veto any tax cut extension in 2023-24. That tax fight may not get resolved until 2025 or later.
BUT A BUDGET FIGHT COULD COME SOONER: McCarthy recently told Punchbowl News that the GOP will use raising the debt limit as leverage to force spending cuts next year. To the surprise of leaders of both parties, McCarthy did not rule out reforms to Social Security and Medicare — a risky stance to take, less than a month before the elections.
SEVERAL GOP SENATORS, including Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida, have called for a review of entitlement spending; they have concluded, correctly, that a balanced budget is very unlikely without some major changes. Since a tax hike is out of the question for the GOP, they now focus on Social Security and Medicare, but major cuts in those programs have no chance of passage.
CURBS ON AID TO UKRAINE have a better chance, and it also seems likely that unrest will increase in Western Europe (there were large protests in France yesterday). McCarthy is correct — a Republican-controlled House may balk at fresh aid for Kyiv. Could this prompt the war criminal Vladimir Putin to see an opening if Western resolve begins to waver this winter?
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