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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is warning that a measure by Congress to give Ukraine $40 billion additional funding in its war against Russia is evidence of the Biden administration’s “misplaced priorities” and will be detrimental to the security of the U.S.
The Senate advanced a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill on Monday evening, despite opposition from a handful of Republican senators, in a vote tallying 81-11.
Hawley told Fox News Digital Tuesday during an exclusive interview that the reason why he voted “no” to advance the aid package is due to the fact that it will harm the United States’ standing domestically as well as on the world stage and doesn’t represent a “nationalist” foreign policy view.
“My biggest concern is that I don’t think this represents a nationalist foreign policy. I mean, it seems to me to be part of this unfocused globalism that unfortunately many in my party have embraced in the last couple of decades,” Hawley said.
“The amounts we’re talking about are astronomical. I think $40 billion would be about three times as much as Europe has contributed combined, all of the European states, for a war that’s happening on their continent,” the senator stated, saying he’s worried it will continue allowing Europe to “freeload.”
“I’m concerned that it shortchanges priorities here at home. We could build a border wall twice over with this amount of money,” Hawley continued, stating that the U.S. needs to be more focused on the threat that illegal immigration poses, rather than fueling billions into a war and adding to our national debt.
Last week, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocked a measure that would have fast tracked the legislation to the Senate floor, and since then, other GOP senators have come out in opposition to the legislation saying its direction is muddled and would require additional oversight.
“My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation,” Paul, who has been leading on this issue, tweeted Thursday after he single-handedly delayed a unanimous consent request to move the bill forward.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Paul asked: “Putting aside the constitutionality of gifting $40 billion to Ukraine, isn’t there a more fiscally responsible way this could be done?”
“What about taking the $40 billion from elsewhere in the budget? The US spends more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. Couldn’t Congress simply shift over the $40 billion and not add it to the debt? If the defense of Ukraine is really in our national security interest, shouldn’t their gift come from our military budget?”
Hawley also remarked to Fox News Digital that there are “no meaningful restraints or oversight” on the bill, which could cause many issues, he explained.
The Congressional Research Service has estimated that this latest Ukraine bill is $6 billion more than all defense spending by the U.S. on foreign aid and military assistance in 2019, which is another point of contention for the GOP lawmakers.
In addition, it would put the United States at above $50 billion in total aid to Ukraine — far exceeding the amount provided for by European countries, which Hawley and other Republican senators argue is disadvantageous to the international standing of the country.
Hawley also told Fox News Digital that he is concerned that the package distracts from “more pressing” priorities abroad and at home, including the threat from China.
“I mean, what needs to happen here is we need to get out of the business of nation building, and we need to get focused on deterring our most significant adversary, which is China,” said Hawley, who says he still supports aid to Ukraine to defeat Russia, but not in such a massive quantity.
“To do that, we’ve got to get in the right posture in the Indo-Pacific, which we’re not currently. We’ve got to get serious about getting tough on China’s trade cheating, which this administration is not. And, you know, we’ve also got to get serious about protecting our border, which is truly in a total crisis on our southern border. And, you know, that is also a national security concern, given what we’re seeing coming across the border in terms of crime and drugs.”
“It is a matter of priorities that are misplaced. It’s a matter of not putting America’s national security interests first and not having any clear plan,” Hawley told Fox News Digital.
Biden’s funding bill for Ukraine includes over $20 billion in weapons and security assistance for Ukraine, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and $4 billion for the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program.
The bill passed the House last week despite “no” votes from 57 Republican congressmen. The Senate is expected to hold a final passage vote on the bill later this week, requiring just 60 votes, and then it would head to President Biden’s desk.
“The plan was substantial in size, because the need is substantial: We must stand by Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression,” Biden said after the bill passed the House. “The need is also urgent: I have nearly exhausted the resources given to me by a bipartisan majority in Congress to support Ukraine’s fighters.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., traveled to Ukraine over the weekend and met with President Volodmyr Zelenskyy. He was joined by John Barrasso of Wyoming, Susan Collins of Maine and John Cornyn of Texas.
The week before, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Ukraine accompanied by several of her Democratic colleagues.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz, Lawrence Richard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.