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K Street blames Trump’s NATO disdain for GOP inaction on Ukraine

K Street blames Trump’s NATO disdain for GOP inaction on Ukraine

A majority of K Street insiders believe former President Donald Trump’s views on NATO and Russia are having a large impact on Congress’ ability — or lack thereof — to pass additional funding for Ukraine, according to our latest survey, The Canvass.

Trump’s influence among congressional Republicans has undoubtedly made it more difficult for both chambers to approve new Ukraine aid, despite the fact that large bipartisan majorities are in favor of it. Congress hasn’t sent a Ukraine aid package to President Joe Biden’s desk since the end of 2022.

Our survey found that 61% of senior K Streeters attribute this to Trump’s outspoken views on the subject. Trump has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the NATO alliance and even recently seemed to invite a Russian incursion into NATO territory, saying the United States wouldn’t defend nations that don’t spend enough on defense.

The Ukraine issue has vexed House GOP leaders ever since their party reclaimed the majority. Speaker Mike Johnson is set to unveil a Ukraine proposal in the coming days, but it’s unclear if enough Democrats will go along with it. Johnson also has to consider the possibility that conservative hardliners could move to oust him from the speakership.

Despite these headwinds, our survey found that 68% of senior K Street leaders believe that Congress will eventually pass additional Ukraine aid.

For several months, GOP leaders in both chambers said any additional Ukraine aid must include border security language. Immigration, of course, has been a hallmark of Trump’s three presidential campaigns.

But after bipartisan negotiations yielded a border security bill, Republicans killed that compromise proposal. The Senate then passed an aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that included no border provisions. Just under half of the Senate GOP Conference, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported that bill.

McConnell has been publicly prodding Johnson to take up the Senate bill, but the speaker has resisted those calls.

Johnson’s proposal is likely to include budget maneuvers and other creative provisions intended to mollify conservatives who oppose Ukraine aid anyway. And he’s considering taking aim at Biden’s energy policies as part of the package, something Democrats are likely to oppose.

The Canvass K Street was conducted March 4-22 in partnership with independent public affairs firm, LSG.

Also: Here is the one-pager summing up the results of this month’s Canvass survey. Here is the full poll and the slide deck.

Want to take part in The Canvass? Our survey provides anonymous monthly insights from top Capitol Hill staffers and K Street leaders on key issues facing Washington. Sign up here if you work on K Street. Click here to sign up if you’re a senior congressional staffer.

— Andrew Desiderio

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