Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against advancing a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine Monday evening, joining 10 other GOP senators who said the spending lacked oversight and was misguided.
Lee voted alongside Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
The legislation ultimately passed with broad bipartisan support — 81 senators voted in favor of the bill, setting up a final vote later in the week, according to the Hill.
The package allows the Pentagon to send roughly $11 billion in weapons and equipment from U.S. stockpiles, and $20 billion to offset the weapons already sent to Ukraine. The package would also support U.S. troop deployment to NATO countries.
Congress has been largely bipartisan in its effort to fund Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion, approving nearly $14 billion in funding for military and humanitarian aid in March.
Last Tuesday, the $40 billion package — which goes well beyond the $33 billion that President Joe Biden originally asked for — sailed through the House after a 368-57 vote. The “no” votes came solely from Republicans in the House, though Utah’s four GOP congressmen threw their support behind the package.
Most of the “no” votes on Monday came from fiscal conservatives who argued the bill will add to the country’s debt, and scrutinized where exactly the funding will go. The legislation stalled in the Senate last week after Paul blocked the vote, calling for a provision that would establish a federal watchdog to probe where and how the aid is spent.
“It’s irresponsible to shovel $40 billion out the door without knowing where it goes,” Paul told reporters, according to Politico.
Before the vote Monday, Lee introduced an amendment to the package that the Utah Republican said could help streamline and target the aid.
Lee also said the amendment would prevent the bill from adding to the country’s deficit, and would avoid spending “unnecessary funds” amid historic inflation and national debt.
“My amendment will ensure we can help our friends without compromising our constitutional or financial integrity,” he said in a news release.
The proposal advanced by the Senate Monday, “would spend nearly 10 times the annual defense budget of Ukraine while delegating broad discretion to the president and bureaucrats regarding where and how most of the money is spent,” Lee said. “Much of the money will likely go to nations across the world not involved in the conflict.”
Lee’s amendment would have transferred over $21 billion to the general fund, while giving Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen authority to adjust payments on “a pro rata basis to the extent necessary to carry out the transfer of funds required.”
“Putin’s aggression is indefensible, and we should look for appropriate ways to support Ukrainians in the noble defense of their homeland,” Lee said. “We must also make sure Congress maintains its constitutional role of directing engagement in conflict and ensure that we are not spending unnecessary funds while in a time of historic inflation and ballooning national debt.”
After Monday’s vote, independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin, who now has the backing of the Utah Democratic Party in his effort to unseat Lee, blasted the vote. In a statement, McMullin said Lee “has chosen once again to abandon democracy and enable Russia.”
“Previously, Lee has voted against sanctions on Putin’s regime, traveled to Moscow to discuss lifting sanctions, and voted repeatedly against aid for Ukraine. Here at home, he attempted to overturn American democracy with ‘alternative electors’ from battleground states and proclaimed, ‘we are not a democracy,’” McMullin said.