Final approval of legislation to provide $40 billion in additional funding to help Ukraine weather, and perhaps ultimately defeat, invading Russian forces could come as soon as this week following overwhelming bipartisan approval of the measure in the U.S. House Tuesday night.
Senate leaders said they would bring the bill to the floor for a vote as quickly as possible, potentially as soon as Thursday, and indicated there should be no problem getting enough Republican votes for passage.
“I think there’ll be substantial support,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told The Associated Press about the legislation, which passed 368-57 in the House. “We’re going to try to process it as soon as possible.”
Four of Oklahoma’s five House members voted to approve the aid package, while Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK1) voted against it.
In an interview last week, Rep. Hern indicated he would likely support the aid agreement, as long as the aid was not coupled with something else, while repeating his belief that the administration’s weakness was a factor in Russian President Putin’s decision to invade in late February.
“But we’re in it now,” said Hern, “not just us but a lot of the NATO nations are helping out and now we have to push back on Russia and its invasion because, if they take this or half of Ukraine, President Putin will be emboldened and who knows what the next steps will be.”
At President Biden’s request to get the funding approved as quickly as possible, Democratic leaders agreed to make the aid a stand-alone bill, but they increased its total value from $33 billion to $40 billion, which apparently was too much for Hern.
“$40 billion is more than the combined annual budgets of the US Departments Commerce, Labor, and the EPA. It’s also several billion dollars over the amount President Biden requested,” said Rep. Hern in a statement Wednesday. “The bill provided no oversight, no accountability, and no pay-fors. My constituents certainly care about the situation in Ukraine, but their number one concern today is inflation at home. This kind of spending will only increase inflationary pressures.”
Oklahoma's two senators have expressed consistent support for aiding Ukraine in its potentially existential struggle, saying it's a national security issue and also just the right thing to do.
"My focus has been that we need to help the Ukrainian people," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in an interview last week. "It is better for us as a nation, better for our national security if Ukrainians are able to push the Russians out of their country."
In a tweet Tuesday, Sen. Inhofe said, "The U.S. must continue to help our friends w/ a steady, timely flow of aid, focusing on the equipment the Ukrainians need on the battlefield."
Neither Sen. Inhofe nor Sen. Lankford has confirmed how they plan to vote on the aid package.