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Boozman votes against $40B in aid to Ukraine

Senator claims legislation lacks oversight by Ryan Tarinelli | May 18, 2022 at 7:13 a.m.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., left, confers with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, at the start of a business meeting to advance the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. John Boozman voted against a $40 billion Ukraine aid package, breaking ranks with Senate Republican leadership and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a political ally.

While the aid package is receiving bipartisan support, Boozman issued a statement Tuesday saying he cannot back the legislation, citing a "lack of oversight of U.S. taxpayer dollars" and President Joe Biden's "disastrous policies on domestic and international fronts."

The legislation has not yet received final approval from the Senate, but is expected to pass later this week.

The opposition from the two-term senator comes as war continues to unfold in Ukraine more than two months after Russia invaded the Eastern European country. Boozman was one of 11 Senate Republicans who voted against advancing the bill this week.

Boozman's position is in conflict with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who visited Ukraine over the weekend and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

McConnell has urged his Senate colleagues to pass the legislation.

"Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy. It bears directly on America's national security and vital interests that Russia's naked aggression not succeed," McConnell said last week.

Contained in the legislation is $8.7 billion for an "economic support fund," which includes funds to fight human trafficking.

There's also $6 billion for a security assistance initiative to provide weapons, training, equipment and other support to Ukrainian forces.

The package also includes $4.3 billion for "international disaster assistance" to address humanitarian needs in Ukraine and countries affected by the situation in Ukraine.

Boozman's opposition to the aid package comes after he has openly supported providing assistance to Ukraine in the past.

"The United States must continue to provide Ukraine with the military and humanitarian assistance – including further sanctions on the Russian regime and approval of the transfer of Polish fighter jets -- needed to defend its sovereignty, human rights and the cause of freedom," the senator said in a March 16 statement.

In his statement Tuesday outlining his opposition to the aid package, Boozman praised the Ukrainian fighting effort, but said "it's time to think more long-term and strategically about the U.S. role in this ongoing conflict."

The senator added that he could not back the legislation in light of Biden's "refusal to make American energy production a centerpiece of our response to Russia's malign behavior."

Attention on the Ukraine aid package is playing out as Boozman faces challengers in this year's Republican primary. The incumbent is being challenged from the right by former NFL player Jake Bequette and gun range owner Jan Morgan. Heath Loftis, a pastor, is also a candidate in the primary race.

Bequette, a veteran and former Arkansas Razorback football player, weighed in on the $40 billion aid package during an interview this week on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show.

"Why are we sending $40 billion to Ukraine, OK, into what is essentially the bloodlands of Eastern Europe, when we have young mothers in Arkansas and across this country who are wondering how they're gonna feed their babies?" he said, referencing a shortage of infant formula.

However, Cotton, who often advocates hawkish positions on foreign policy, endorsed Boozman in this year's primary race.

The junior senator from Arkansas said in a statement Tuesday that the legislation will help Ukraine stop the Russian invasion.

"I share concerns that the bill includes some unnecessary or excessive measures, but it chiefly funds our own military to acquire critical weapons our troops need while also providing Ukraine with the equipment, support, and training it needs to defend itself," Cotton said in the statement.

The aid package cleared the U.S. House last week by a 368-57 vote, garnering support from three members of Arkansas' House delegation -- U.S. Reps. French Hill, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford.

"In tandem with financial allocations from our NATO partners, these collective funds are delivering lifesaving, war-ending resources," Womack said in a statement.

But Arkansas' other congressman, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, was among the 57 House Republicans who voted against the legislation.

Westerman, in a statement, raised fiscal concerns and said lawmakers were given the legislation without adequate time to review it.

"We must help Ukraine in a way that does not further indebt our country and add $40 billion to our children's credit card," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Print Headline: Boozman votes against $40B in aid to Ukraine


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