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Some Republicans’ call to pick East Palestine over Ukraine is ‘false choice,’ McCaul says

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(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Sunday that the debate over whether the U.S. should prioritize domestic issues or support for Ukraine created a “false choice.”

McCaul, R-Texas, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” where he was asked to respond to some fellow Republican critics, like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who said last week that Biden should not have visited Ukraine but instead should have traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a Feb. 3 derailment of a train that was carrying toxic chemicals.

The train incident compounded the burgeoning push inside the GOP to reevaluate how much aid to give Kyiv.

“I think that’s a false choice. I think the president should’ve gone to Palestine where we have this major chemical spill, but it doesn’t mean we disregard what’s happening in this struggle for the global balance of power that we’re facing right now,” McCaul, who just got back from his own trip to Ukraine shortly after Biden left the country, told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since my father’s generation in World War II: largest invasion in Europe, the biggest threat to the Pacific since World War II. We can’t put our head in the sand and ignore this. Otherwise, the Russians will be on the Polish border and Chairman Xi will invade Taiwan,” McCaul added, referencing Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “I think we can do both. We’re a great nation.”

Raddatz cited an ABC News/Washington Post poll this month that found half of Republicans now believe the U.S. is sending too much aid to Ukraine. McCaul acknowledged that support was declining, which he argued was because the conflict had dragged on for “too long” and “we’re not giving them the weapons systems they need.”

And despite comments like those from Hawley, “I still think the majority in the Congress support this,” McCaul said of the U.S. backing Ukraine. “They also want to know — they want accountability to the taxpayer. … They want to know that their money is being spent wisely.”

McCaul cited ongoing audits by government watchdogs and an outside firm to ensure that accountability but emphasized the importance of continued support for Ukraine.

“What would Reagan do? I would ask my fellow colleagues, right? What would he do? He brought down the Soviet Union. I think he would stand for freedom and democracy,” McCaul said.

Pushing for F-16s

He also said he hopes Republicans and Democrats both pressure the White House to agree to send long-range missiles and F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, particularly ahead of an expected offensive directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The jets and other munitions could come at a crucial turning point in the conflict, he said.

“When we give them what they can really use and ask for, they win,” he said of the Ukrainians. “When we slow-walk and slow-pace this thing, it drags it out, and that’s precisely what Putin wants.”

Raddatz asked McCaul if the F-16s would be vulnerable to Russian air defenses, and he said they would. The Biden administration has said that fighter jets and long-range missiles are not what Ukraine needs right now — compared with “ground maneuver capability” to help “de-occupy” the southern and eastern territories, the White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a separate appearance on “This Week” on Sunday.

McCaul pushed back on that assessment, citing his conversations with top Ukrainian and American military officials.

When pressed by Raddatz on what can be done legislatively to pressure Biden to send the weapons to Ukraine that he seeks, McCaul said, “We can certainly write into our appropriations bills prioritizing weapon systems, and we intend to do that.”

Worries about China

At the same time, the U.S. believes China is considering sending lethal military aid to Russia in support its invasion, including drones, McCaul said.

While Chinese officials have defended their relationship with Russia as non-aggressive, McCaul said Putin and Xi have an “unholy alliance” that includes key economic support in the form of the energy trade.

“The fact that they’re going to meet next week, Chairman Xi and Putin, to discuss this unholy alliance that they have to put weapons into Ukraine to me is very disturbing, because while [it is] maybe Ukraine today, it’s going to be Taiwan tomorrow. That’s why this is so important,” McCaul said.

On another topic, Raddatz asked him about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., calling for a “national divorce” over policy disagreements between the GOP and Democrats.

“I don’t speak for her,” said McCaul, who previously said Greene had matured from earlier controversies as a lawmaker. “And the great thing about this country is we can have political dialogue, discourse. We are a democracy, we have differences of opinions. I will say divisive rhetoric, I think, polarizes this nation and I think it hurts this nation.”

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