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Sen. Mitt Romney says US can 'walk, chew gum at same time' when it comes to Ukraine aid

Ukrainian serviceman wave a flag with writing reading in Ukrainian “Glory to Ukraine,” top, and “Death to the enemies” as they ride atop a tank in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, on Monday.

Ukrainian serviceman wave a flag with writing reading in Ukrainian “Glory to Ukraine,” top, and “Death to the enemies” as they ride atop a tank in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, on Monday. (Bernat Armangue, Associated Press)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

WASHINGTON — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney chided at least one fellow Republican for opposing a $40 billion Ukraine aid package in explaining why he will vote in favor of the legislation when it comes up for a final vote in the Senate.

Romney noted that one senator plans to vote no because he believes the federal government should be paying attention to the needs of Americans and American interests.

"Well, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. And it is very much in the best interests of Americans to see Ukraine succeed and Russia fail. If Russia wins, this will not be the last time it invades a neighbor," he said in a video release Wednesday.

The Senate on Monday overwhelmingly advanced the bill that easily passed the House last week but had stalled in the upper chamber because of an objection from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Senators voted 81 to 11 to end debate on a motion to proceed to the legislation, setting up a final vote this week.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was among 11 GOP senators voting against moving forward with the aid package, arguing the spending lacked oversight and was misguided. An amendment Lee introduced that he said could help streamline and target the aid failed.

A $40 billion Ukraine aid bill — which earmarks half of the money for military weapons — easily passed the House last week. President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan lend-lease bill last week that lets the U.S. more quickly send military aid to Ukraine.

"You're going to be hearing all sorts of reasons not to send military hardware to Ukraine," said Romney, who supported sending Polish fighter jets to Ukraine early in the Russian invasion.

Some will argue that this Ukraine bill is too expensive, he said, noting the U.S. spends about a trillion dollars a year on national defense. A lot of that is due to the fact that Russia has 1,500 nuclear warheads aimed at the United States, he said.

Spending $20 billion — about 2% of U.S. military funding — to help Ukraine defeat and weaken Russia is one of the "smartest and most economic investments" the country could make, Romney said.

"If Russia wins, it will mean that stronger nuclear nations will be able to invade and oppress other sovereign nations at will," he said. "Russia winning is a win for authoritarians like China."

Some will argue that there is corruption in Ukraine and that the U.S. can't guarantee the money will be spent the right way, he said.

"Well, first of all, they will be buying the military hardware from us. And maybe before we get too animated about fraud and corruption in Ukraine, we should focus on the fraud here in America," Romney said.

"Did you know that of the COVID relief money sent for unemployment insurance, over $150 billion was fraudulent? That means it was stolen by criminals."

Romney said the U.S. should make sure Ukraine spends the money wisely, but that shouldn't be an excuse to continue to delay the aid. He said he will vote for the bill because it's in the U.S.'s interest and the right thing to do.

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Russia-UkraineUtah congressional delegationUtahU.S.Politics
Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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