WASHINGTON — Tensions over Ukraine funding are growing in Washington as progressive anti-war activists are confronting Democratic lawmakers urging Congress to immediately provide more money to the war effort.
“Continued American support will be critical to help Ukrainians as they fight for freedom, sovereignty and democratic values against Putin’s unjustified, unprovoked brutal war of choice,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said during a press conference Tuesday. She and other Democrats who served, joined by progressive political action committee VoteVets.org, called for continuing Ukrainian funds.
The Democratic leaders were met with several dozen protesters, specifically from left-wing grassroots organization Codepink and anti-war advocacy group Veterans for Peace. During the Democratic leaders’ remarks on the U.S.’s role in previous interventions like Iraq, protesters shouted “We don’t support genocide! You support genocide!” calling for reallocation of military spending to domestic socioeconomic issues.
The group on Wednesday also went into the Capitol building in Congress to protest, many wearing shirts that say “Peace in Ukraine.” At least 10 Codepink activists were arrested on Wednesday morning outside the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the group said.
The rally comes days after Congress passed the continuing resolution that narrowly saved the government from a shutdown but excluded any additional aid to Ukraine.
Democrats say while it was important to keep the government open, leaving out Ukraine money will have grave international consequences that ultimately puts the value of America’s role as a dependable ally into question.
“Now is such an important moment to send a very clear signal to our partners, as well as our competitors and adversaries, that America stands for democracy,” Rep. Andrew Kim (D-N.J.) said. “And we do not stand for dictators invading other countries and trying to rewrite the boundaries of the world.”
Biden asked for an additional $24 billion in aid to Ukraine that many Democrats and Republicans support, but key progressives and GOP hard-liners say the money would be best suited elsewhere.
Between January 2022 and July 2023, the U.S. sent Ukraine a total of $76.8 billion in bilateral funds, ranging from humanitarian to weapons assistance. But in a letter recently sent to leaders on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon warned Congress that it’s running low on funding to replenish troops and crucial weaponry to Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
“We ought to put that $24 billion supplemental on the floor of both houses and put people to a vote because that vote is for history,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “That vote is one they will be remembered for casting.”
Brian Stone, a veteran from Michigan whose father served during World War II, said he agrees.
“What happens overseas can and does affect us here at home,” he said. “We can either choose to send the funding now and allow the Ukrainians to fight, or we can end up paying the price in blood later, like we did during World War II and after 9/11.”
Yet the concerns of Stone and lawmakers are running increasingly into opposition from traditional allies of Democrats.
Marcy Winograd, co-chair of the Peace in Ukraine coalition, said in an interview the continuation of funding could “easily spiral out of control into a world war and a nuclear confrontation.”
“No more weapons — no more military training,” Winograd said. “It would be a lot easier and saner to get to the negotiating table.”
The ongoing chaos over the Republican leadership in the House after the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership may further delay any conversations on the U.S. aid to Ukraine over the next few weeks.
Blumenthal urged fellow lawmakers to not focus too much “on technicalities when our national security is so vilely at stake, along with Ukraine’s brave and determined people.”
“We’re going to make it work,” he said, on maintaining alliances and funding. “Democracies have to make it work.”