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What’s next for Ukraine aid?

Funding for Ukraine was left out of the stopgap spending bill approved by Congress today even though big majorities in both chambers still want to send more money to the embattled U.S. ally.

This was done to ease the 45-day CR’s passage in the House especially, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces a growing number of rank-and-file Republicans who don’t want to spend more money on this bitter 18-month-old conflict.

But the issue is getting to be a tougher and tougher vote. And with the White House preparing to ask for tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine next month, this will become a major flashpoint.

So how is Congress going to continue funding Kyiv?

First and foremost, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) appeared to secure a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on Ukraine aid in the near future. No specific timeline was laid out.

“Leader McConnell and I have agreed to continue fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine,” Schumer said ahead of the Senate’s vote.

Republicans who support Ukraine believe it’s easier for them politically to only have to take one vote on a large tranche of Ukraine aid, rather than vote in small increments. The White House is expected to send Congress a full-year supplemental request for Ukraine as soon as November.

“What I’m hearing from my Republican colleagues is that one vote is better than multiple votes,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told us. “[Congress’ support for Ukraine] gets lost in this political gamesmanship.”

But some Democrats are worried about the message it sends to U.S. allies and adversaries alike.

“I mean, we had a bipartisan majority in favor of Ukraine, but [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell] and others walked away from the deal that they had,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added.

Multiple Democrats, though, are skeptical that McCarthy will end up putting a standalone Ukraine funding bill on the floor.

“I think, as Leader Jeffries has talked about, again it shows the speaker’s word can’t be trusted,” added Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.).

“The speaker has said to [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky and others that he would make sure they get the funding that they need,” Meeks added. “So it is up to the speaker to make sure he shows that he understands that Russia is watching, our NATO allies are watching. They know who the speaker is.”

House Democratic leaders released a statement Saturday saying they expect McCarthy will put a Ukraine funding bill on the floor “when the House returns.”

It should be noted that nearly every House and Senate Democrat ended up voting for the stopgap funding bill without Ukraine aid. But members of both parties were concerned about the optics of forcing a government shutdown over Ukraine aid.

“We should pass whatever keeps government open,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said. “I’ve been supportive of Ukraine funding… but we can’t shut down the U.S. government over funding to a foreign government, no matter how great the cause may be.”

One option being floated is for the Senate to use the House-passed bill providing $300 million Ukraine funding. That bill was passed as a show-of-confidence vote after the money was stripped out of the House GOP-drafted Defense spending bill. McCarthy has formally sent that bill over to the Senate, we’re told.

Several Democrats suggested to us that the Senate could amend this bill, add additional Ukraine funding and send it back to the House. McCarthy would then face a decision on whether to allow that bill to come up for a vote.

— Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Max Cohen

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