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October 23, 2023

McConnell emerges as Biden’s top foreign-policy salesman on the Hill

Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rare Sunday media blitz had an even rarer purpose — to boost President Joe Biden’s chances of passing a historic and potentially legacy-defining legislative package.

McConnell has emerged as Biden’s most valuable asset as Congress prepares to take up a $100-plus billion emergency funding request for Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.

Biden’s ability to provide the emergency assistance to U.S. allies will hinge, in part, on whether McConnell is able to bring along enough Senate Republicans. This is going to be difficult, with several GOP senators already coming out against combining aid for these foreign conflicts into one immense bill.

McConnell, appearing on two news shows Sunday, is throwing his full weight behind Biden’s effort. Both men are framing the supplemental funding request as an interconnected, global emergency for the United States.

But this comes as more Republicans are arguing that each portion should be voted on separately. This would allow them to support funding for Israel and Taiwan but block new aid for Ukraine.

“You can’t just take out part of this. It’s an overall effort by the Chinese, the Russians [and] the Iranians to go after the free world. And the Israelis are feeling the pinch at the moment more than anyone else,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We need to view this as a worldwide problem.”

To be sure, McConnell has had his fair share of disagreements with Biden on foreign policy — from the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal in 2021 to the administration’s attempts to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal.

But lately, the Senate GOP leader has shown an increased willingness to boost Biden’s national-security efforts while pushing back on the growing opposition to Ukraine funding within his own party.

On Sunday, McConnell said flatly that it’s not about whether Biden will get credit for a legislative win if Congress approves this request. Rather, it’s a question of how the United States will fight off what he called a new “axis of evil.”

The Kentucky Republican also pushed back on the oft-repeated GOP claim that European nations aren’t sharing enough of the burden. McConnell noted that NATO allies have committed nearly $100 billion to Ukraine’s defense and are contributing even more on the humanitarian side, including on refugee resettlement.

Here’s more of what McConnell told Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation:”

McConnell is also backing up Biden on sending humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza — something many Republicans vehemently oppose. McConnell cautioned that the United States should ensure that the money wouldn’t be going to Hamas.

“There are genuine humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza who are not Hamas, who’ve been thrown under the bus by what Hamas did. Innocent people,” McConnell said. “But we want to be careful about how the money is spent.”

Of course, all of this has little bearing on the House, where a new GOP speaker could easily block or water down the effort. And even McConnell might seek significant changes to Biden’s supplemental funding request, such as on the provisions that deal with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. McConnell said on Friday that the Senate will “work its will” on the funding package.

Hill Democrats won’t have much of an objection to Biden’s request, save for the small group of progressives who oppose aiding Israel. But the Senate’s filibuster and the Republican-controlled House mean GOP support will be necessary to get this over the finish line.

So it’s clear that Biden will need to keep McConnell close.

— Andrew Desiderio

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A message brought to you by RTX

Brilliant new ideas can come from everywhere. That’s why we invest heavily in STEM education, helping build a career-ready, diverse talent pipeline to tackle tomorrow’s most complex challenges. Learn more at RTX.com

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