SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — As some Republicans push for more intense oversight of Ukraine funding, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Saturday said the concern were misguided and “makes me a little crazy.”
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum here, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the focus on oversight is “part of Russian propaganda.”
“Ukraine is spending the money really well; that’s why they’re winning,” he added. “Yes, we need oversight, but we don’t need that as an excuse to not fund what we’re doing.”
The White House last month requested another $38 billion in Ukraine aid. If approved, it would bring the total amount Congress has appropriated for Ukraine to more than $100 billion.
But there are signs of waning conservative support. Earlier this year, 57 House and 11 Senate Republicans voted against a $40 billion Ukraine supplemental. And last month, a coalition of a dozen conservative groups signed a letter urging the House not to approve the new request.
During the same panel at the Reagan Forum, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., advocated for closer oversight of Ukraine spending and said involving more members of Congress in classified briefings would help.
That would allow them to be “informed [so] they don’t buy into a lot of noise that’s going on out there.”
“We have to be more transparent with the American people so that they can filter through the barrage of information that they receive and that they then are … more capable of discerning for themselves what the truth is,” said Fischer, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I don’t think it’s going to change minds on one side or the other for us to sit up here and say, ‘This is what you should believe.’”
In another panel later Saturday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Republican support for aid to Ukraine will continue.
But, he said, the GOP wants more oversight of U.S. aid to Ukraine and wants allies to do more to help Ukraine to maintain constituent support.
”The Republican Party will hold on Ukraine,” Graham said. Rep. “Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.], hopefully, gets to be Speaker [of the House]. But I think you’ll find bills to make the aid more transparent [and] account for the weapons. You’ll be finding efforts by me and others to get Germany and other allies to do more. Because it’s easier for me to go back home and say, ‘Listen, if you don’t think Ukraine is important, you’re missing the boat. Because China is watching everything we do.’”
Both Fischer and Smith said the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal have weighed on the American public’s willingness to engage abroad.
Fischer called it a “tipping point” that “made the American people question more,” while Smith said it led to “this feeling that America was too engaged.”
“There’s a certain amount of humility that every single one of us has to have,” Smith added.
He told forum attendees the government must “build a better narrative for why spending money on defense actually does make sense.”
“Ukraine is helping,” Smith added, noting that while many Democrats want to spend less on defense, “Democrats support helping Ukraine more than Republicans do.”
Meanwhile, Smith vowed to file compromise 2023 defense authorization bill on Monday, following bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., last month threatened to delay passage of the bill until January when Republicans take control of the House.
“There are a fair number of people that are trying to stand in the way of that,” he said. “We will vote and we will pass it this week one way or another.”
Stephen Losey contributed to this report.
Marjorie Censer is the editor of Defense News. She was previously editor of Inside Defense. She has also worked as the defense editor at Politico, as well as a staff writer at the Washington Post, the Carroll County Times and the Princeton Packet.