The White House on Wednesday downplayed CNN polling showing most Americans oppose Congress providing additional funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia ahead of a reported administration request for more aid.
“We have we have seen throughout this war solid support from the American people, solid support from the Congress in a bipartisan and bicameral way for continuing to support Ukraine and we’re going to stay focused on that,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN on a call with reporters Wednesday.
“It’s not just important to the people of Ukraine, but it’s important to our European allies and partners, particularly our NATO allies, given that this fighting is on the on the doorstep of many of those NATO allies.”
Kirby said it was also important to the “national security of the American people.”
“If some Americans don’t feel that or since that … I think it’s important to remember that if we just sit back and we let Putin win, we let him take Ukraine, where does it stop next?” Kirby said.
Last week, a CNN poll showed that overall, 55% say Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine vs. 45% who say Congress should authorize such funding. And 51% say that the US has already done enough to help Ukraine while 48% say it should do more. A poll conducted in the early days of the Russian invasion in late February 2022 found 62% who felt the US should have been doing more.
Partisan divisions have widened since that poll, too, with most Democrats and Republicans now on opposing sides of questions on the US role in Ukraine.
The comment comes as the Biden administration is working on a supplemental funding request for Ukraine that will likely be ready for Congress to consider by this fall.
Army acquisition chief Doug Bush said on Monday that the details still have to be determined by the Office of Management and Budget.
“But I think we’ll have a very strong case, and hopefully garner congressional support for continued funding – in particular for munitions production increases and munitions buys to support Ukraine,” he said.
CNN previously reported that the White House was not planning to ask Congress for new Ukraine funding before the end of the fiscal year at the end of September, pitting administration officials against some lawmakers and congressional staffers who were concerned that the funds could run out by mid-summer.
That funding shortfall does not appear to have happened, largely because the Pentagon previously overvalued the amount it had spent on weaponry to Ukraine by $6.2 billion.
In December, Congress approved the administration’s request for an additional $48 billion to help arm Ukraine and combat the Covid-19 pandemic, $36 billion of which was specifically allocated for Ukraine. The supplemental was meant to last through September 30, 2023. The administration requested this kind of additional funding to help support Ukraine four times last year, in March, May, September and December.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday called for continued support for Ukraine during an event in Louisville, Kentucky. He pushed back on arguments from House Republicans – and some Senate Republicans – that Russian aggression in Ukraine is not an issue for the US.
“People think, increasingly it appears, that we shouldn’t be doing this. Well, let me start by saying we haven’t lost a single American in this war,” McConnell said. “Most of the money that we spend related to Ukraine is actually spent in the US, replenishing weapons, more modern weapons. So it’s actually employing people here and improving our own military for what may lie ahead.”
He specifically pushed back on arguments like those from Sen. Josh Hawley, who has said that the US should remain focused on countering China and let the European nations support Ukraine.
“Occasionally, you’ve probably heard, ‘Well, isn’t China a bigger problem?’ But it’s all interrelated because what you’ve got here is the democratic world unified against this aggression,” McConnell said. “There’s a great concern in Asia. The prime minister of Japan, I think, said it best when he said, ‘if you want to send President Xi a message, beat the Russians in Ukraine.’”
McConnell argued that Biden’s administration doesn’t have enough urgency when it comes to supplying Ukrainian forces with weapons and resources.
“One of my complaints about the Biden administration is the president has typically not done things soon enough,” he said. “The weapons get there later than they should, been a little too tentative in my view. He’s generally going in the right direction, but not fast enough or most effective enough.”