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White House uses GOP recess as tool to hammer inaction on Ukraine aid

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The White House ratcheted up its onslaught on House Republican leadership, criticizing them for going on “vacation” without approving funding for Ukraine.

“The damage House Republicans are actively causing to American national security mounts every day that they insist on continuing their two-week vacation,” spokesperson Andrew Bates wrote in a memo to be released Wednesday and first obtained by POLITICO.

The memo includes a “vacation reading packet” of potential threats if the funding is not approved, including Russia advancing on the Ukrainian battle line and a decline in American defense manufacturing.

Since the Senate approved a $95 billion national defense supplemental, the White House has been hammering House Republicans to simply take up the bill and approve it. But Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team called the bill “dead on arrival” in their chamber and said they wouldn’t bring it to a vote.

“No amount of memos from the White House can change the fact that House Republicans were clear from the very beginning: any national security supplemental should start at our own border,” Johnson spokesperson Taylor Haulsee said Wednesday. “Stunningly, after four months of negotiations which the House was not party to, the White House-Senate bill is entirely silent on the border — the top issue for most Americans.”

The House, he added, “will work its own will on the matter.”

The House left Thursday and is due to return in a week.

Shortly after the chamber recessed without taking up the supplemental bill, news broke about the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny. Democrats argue his death in a Russian prison increases the urgency on Republicans to pass funding to help Ukraine continue to fend off Russia.

Johnson has repeatedly asked President Joe Biden for a meeting, but those requests have gone unheeded.

That leaves the White House with few options besides building political pressure on Republicans to take up the bill.

“Speaker Johnson has shown no signs of cancelling Republicans’ vacation as he puts his own internal politics over the safety of the American people,” Bates continued, adding that the refusal to take up the bill undermines Ukraine’s defenses, endangers NATO and denies military assistance to Israel.

It’s not unusual for politicians to get criticized for going on “vacation” when they’re away from Washington. The Biden administration’s critique is not without risks; Republicans have frequently gone after Biden for his frequent weekend visits to his Delaware beach home and vacations.