Top Republicans ask watchdog to look at economic assistance to Ukraine

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) gives an opening statement during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Greg Nash
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) gives an opening statement during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

The top Republicans with oversight of foreign affairs are calling on an independent congressional watchdog to provide detailed information on the Biden administration’s delivery of economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine.

The request comes as pressure grows within the GOP to cut or audit the aid provided to Ukraine by the administration, an effort that has triggered worries about continued support for the war-torn country.

In a letter to the Government Accountability Office sent Thursday, the ranking Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Armed Services Committee said they are seeking information on how the administration is monitoring nearly $14.9 billion in funds disbursed through the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

The letter addresses criticisms that have been raised by the GOP lawmakers, Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho) and Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), that USAID has been too slow to disburse the funds provided.

“It is imperative that USAID and the Department of State continue to work with haste to use these funds to address the dire needs of the people of Ukraine,” the lawmakers wrote.

“In doing so, it will be important that the agencies coordinate with the international donor community, allied and partner governments, the Government of Ukraine, and local Ukrainian organizations to ensure that U.S. assistance does not duplicate other efforts, but instead is well targeted to where the need is greatest.” 

The call for oversight echoes concerns and criticisms from Republicans that more scrutiny is needed to fully account for U.S. assistance to Ukraine. The criticisms range from GOP lawmakers who say they support continued American assistance to Kyiv, to those who advocate cutting funding to Ukraine in general.  

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has rejected supporting any aid to Ukraine and called for a full audit of the U.S. support that has been provided. A resolution to establish the audit was voted down on Wednesday by the Democrat-led House Foreign Affairs Committee, but garnered support from the Republican members of the panel.

McCaul, who is the likely chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when Republicans take control of the House in January, did not say specifically if he would support Greene’s resolution if it is reintroduced, but told The Hill he is working to draft legislation strengthening oversight. 

“I think it’s more helpful to have a more transparent view,” he said when asked if he would support Green’s resolution.

“We haven’t had one hearing on Ukraine since Feb 24, in my committee,” McCaul added. “We’re going to be generally supportive of the idea, we need more information about this. I’ll probably have a bill I’ll be passing, to provide that.” 

Still, he spoke in support of assistance for Ukraine.

“I do think for the amount of money we’ve invested in this, to demoralize and defeat the Russian military… through Ukraine, without one of our soldiers, not one American soldier has been put into this or died, to me that’s a good investment.”

The Ukrainian government has advocated for economic and humanitarian support, arguing it is as essential as military support. The U.S. is a leading donor to Ukraine.

Funds pledged by USAID includes $13 billion in direct support to Ukraine that has allowed the country to buy humanitarian goods and pay the salaries of civil servants, school employees, hospital workers. Funds have also been directed to social services. 

USAID has also pledged $667 million in economic and food security assistance, and $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance. 

Independent analysis estimates that about 60 percent of the U.S.  funds have been disbursed, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s Ukraine Support Tracker

Tags Biden James Risch Jim Risch Jim Risch Marjorie Taylor Greene Michael McCaul Mike McCaul russia ukraine
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