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Senate Kills Effort To Set Up Independent Watchdog For Ukraine Aid

The Senate voted against adding two GOP-led provisions setting up a special inspector general to oversee U.S. security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, now topping more than $75 billion, to the yearly defense bill passed Thursday.

Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, ranking member on the Armed Services Subcommittee, submitted an amendment to the chamber’s draft National Defense Authorization Act for 2024 to appoint a lead inspector general providing for oversight of “independent and objective conduct” of audits over all assistance to Ukraine, according to Senate records. Most Democrats voted against the amendment as well as a single Republican — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who proposed his own failed amendment adding Ukraine oversight to an existing special inspector general over U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Jon Tester of Montana were the only members of their party to vote for Wicker’s version, which failed to reach the 60 vote threshold required to add the amendment to the bill, with 51 Yeas to 48 Nays, and one Democrat abstaining, according to the roll call summary. (RELATED: ‘Honesty Is Key’: Afghanistan Pitfalls Could Be Replayed In Ukraine, Watchdog Finds)

Paul’s proposal failed on a bipartisan basis 20 to 78, with two Democrats not voting, the roll call summary shows.

Currently, the U.S. oversees assistance to Ukraine through a joint program overseen by the regular inspectors general for the Department of Defense (DOD), State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The watchdogs have uncovered evidence of poor end use tracking practices and have dozens of audits and reviews in progress.

Wicker accused Democrats of standing against a “reasonable, effective effort to conduct additional oversight of U.S aid to Ukraine” in a statement Thursday.

“Lawmakers are far better positioned to support Ukraine when taxpayers feel confident that their money is spent on a transparent and effective basis,” he added.

The DoD OIG has made oversight of the $113.4 billion appropriated for the Ukraine response a top priority. Tune into Inspector General Rob Storch’s testimony on Ukraine oversight before #HFAC.

— DoD Inspector General (@DoD_IG) March 29, 2023

The two bills differed in several respects. Wicker’s would create an office under the supervision of both the State Department and DOD to map out a plan for “comprehensive oversight,” ensuring U.S. programs and material aid related to supporting the Ukrainian resistance meet goals, and to ensure accuracy in the administration’s financial reporting.

Paul’s, on the other hand, would have expanded responsibilities of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, set up in 2008 to audit U.S. aid to Afghanistan, to include Ukraine aid. The IG would have been tasked with promoting “economic efficiency,” keeping heads of state informed about “problems and deficiencies” and keeping track of corrective action.

Wicker and his counterpart on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee pledged to continue advocating for a “more, better, faster” approach toward aiding Ukraine, however.

So far, the Biden administration has sent nearly $77 billion in combined humanitarian, economic and security aid to Ukraine, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

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