McCain: ‘Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans’ if you oppose Senate Ukraine aid deal

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted fellow Republican senators Thursday for seeking to block an aid package to the new Ukrainian government, and he went so far as to question their allegiance to the GOP.


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). (The Washington Post)

His blistering attack came as the Senate attempted to advance an aid package, approved Wednesday by the Foreign Relations Committee, that includes $1 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. government, $50 million to boost democracy-building initiatives in Ukraine and $100 million for security cooperation with the country’s government.

The deal also includes changes long-sought by the White House that would shift about $63 billion in IMF money from a crisis fund to a general account. Doing so would make good on a 2010 pledge by the Obama administration and ensure greater U.S. influence over the world body, supporters said.

But Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) objected to advancing the Senate aid package on behalf of about a dozen Republicans Thursday afternoon.  His objection prompted McCain's emotional response.

“You can call yourself Republicans. That’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “Ronald Reagan would never, would never let this kind of aggression go unresponded to by the American people.”

The proposed aid package has divided House and Senate Republicans in recent days. Most House Republicans and several Senate Republicans saying the IMF reforms should be handled separate from the IMF aid.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday that “The IMF money has nothing to do with Ukraine. I understand the administration wants the IMF money, but it has nothing at all to do with Ukraine.”

But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a close McCain ally, said he backs the IMF reforms because the institution “can provide stability at a time we need it. From the long view, the IMF is a strategic tool for United States foreign policy. We would be short-sighted to not embrace this reform.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), leading Republican on the foreign relations panel, also supports including the IMF reforms as part of a new aid deal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would take up the issue again once Congress reconvenes after a week-long recess on March 24.

But even if the Senate had approved the aid package Thursday night, Boehner has said he is unwilling to include IMF reforms as part of any agreement.

McCain and other senators are scheduled to leave for Ukraine Thursday night for two days of meetings with political leaders there.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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