The three Republicans running in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District argued in a live televised debate Saturday against a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine without increased oversight of those funds.
Businesswoman Nicole Hasso of Johnston, retired farmer and activist Gary Leffler and State Sen. Zach Nunn of Bondurant all are competing for the Republican Party’s nomination, and they made their cases directly to Iowans as early voting is set to launch this week. The winner of the Republican primary will take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne in November.
Democratic President Joe Biden has called for increased aid to Ukraine as it fights to fend off a Russian invasion. A $40 billion aid package passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week, passing overwhelmingly on a 368-57 vote. All four of Iowa’s representatives, including three Republicans and one Democrat, voted to approve the package.
But the legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., demanded that leaders designate a federal watchdog to oversee its spending. Republican and Democratic leaders had been united in their intention to advance aid quickly.
Saturday’s debate moderators asked the three candidates whether they believe there should be a limit on how much money the U.S. sends to Ukraine.
Hasso, who works in the financial services industry, answered first.
“You know, I truly believe there is at limit that the U.S. should have as far as sending aid to Ukraine,” she said. “Right now, we have a supply-chain issue. And our moms are trying to feed their babies. We need oversight. What are they doing with that money? What is in this bill? What are we sending them money for? We need to have accountability.”
The moderators asked Hasso if she had a dollar figure in mind for when to cut off aid. Hasso said, “This bill is enough.
“We have to take care of America first,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with putting America first.”
Leffler, who has also worked in financial services, answered next, criticizing Washington, D.C., leaders who were, for a short time, buying Russian oil while also sending aid to Ukraine, he said. Biden has since banned the importation of Russian oil.
“So in essence, we were funding both sides of that conflict,” Leffler said. “And that’s how screwed up things get in Washington.”
Like Hasso, he also appeared to suggest domestic issues should take priority.
“How can we fund what’s going on there if saying the security of Ukraine is more important than our own border?” he said.
Nunn, who is a lieutenant colonel and commands the 233rd Intelligence Squadron, 132nd Wing in the Iowa Air National Guard, answered last. He did not say directly whether he would have supported the aid package, but he suggested oversight is the most important issue going forward.
“I believe there needs to be oversight of any bill that provides additional funding to Ukraine,” he said. “More importantly, we have the ability to deliver real weapons right now, not billions of U.S. tax dollars to Ukraine. MiG-29s out of Poland, surface-to-air missiles from Eastern European states — that’s what the Ukrainians are asking for. Let’s give them that and let them protect their civilian population.”
This was the second televised debate featuring the three candidates. Early voting begins Wedne, and the primary election is June 7.