Alaska Public Media: Alaska’s U.S. senators pair help for Ukraine with border funds

One of the fault lines dividing Congress is whether to continue aid for Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia. A number of hard-right Republicans say no, and they say they’re willing to shut down the government over it. Alaska’s Republican senators aren’t among them.

Sen. Dan Sullivan wants to reframe aid for Ukraine by deemphasizing the Ukraine part.

“It’s not Ukraine. What I’ve been trying to do is make the case that it’s defeating authoritarian aggression,” he said Wednesday as he boarded a Senate elevator. “A supplemental [spending bill] has to be about Taiwan and other national security challenges.”

Sullivan spoke of pairing funds for an anti-authoritarian initiative with money to better secure the southern border.

“So that’s what I’ve been working on – border security, which is critical, and broadening the aperture and looking at our national security threats, not just Ukraine,” he said.

Sending money overseas for Ukraine’s defense has become controversial among Republicans. Opponents link it with images of migrants streaming across from Mexico to accuse President Biden of caring more about Ukraine’s borders than America’s. Alaska’s senators say: Fund both.

Like Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski also sees border funding as helpful to winning congressional approval for aid to Ukraine.

“I’m a strong supporter of support for Ukraine. I want to make sure that we’re securing our borders,” she said. “We’ve got more work to do there.”

The work is negotiating those items into the annual spending bills to keep the government running, or maybe in a separate supplemental. It’s a tall order. Murkowski is frustrated that three spending bills, strapped together in what’s known as a minibus, has been stalled for a month.

“And in fairness, that’s been on the Republicans here. It’s been the Republicans that have had the holds,” she said. “This is where we’ve had some problems here.”

Capitol Hill news outlets list several Republican senators who have holds on spending bills, for a variety of reasons. Roll Call reports that two hard-right senators are holding up the minibus because they want the spending bills to come up one at a time.

No bill –  not for Ukraine, the border, or just to keep the government running – can become law until the House elects a new speaker. That won’t happen until the middle of next week, at the earliest. Murkowski said that’s no excuse for the Senate.

“If we take the view that we can’t do anything until the House kind of rebuilds itself, that’s a disservice to Congress,” she said. “It’s a disservice to the country.”

Senators, she said, can set a good example by working together.

First, though, they left town. The Senate is taking next week off. When they return they’ll have one month until the next shutdown deadline.

By:  Liz Ruskin
Source: Alaska Public Media