Hidden in the ongoing struggle for power in the U.S. House of Representatives is a growing movement of hard-right opposition to supporting Ukraine. With time running out on available resources, the war with Russia hangs in the balance. Here is the full story.
Circus Comes to Washington
During September and October of 2023, the House of Representatives became the sort of three-ring circus that Ringling Brothers would have been proud of.
But as with a clown’s makeup, there is a dark underbelly.
Follow the Money
The public wrangling rose to a new level as the House struggled to agree on a budget for 2024 that would keep the government running.
In Bed With the Democrats
With an October 1 deadline looming and no visible progress, then-speaker Kevin McCarthy worked with Democrats to enact a continuing resolution, or CR, that would keep the lights on for another 45 days.
Break a Promise, Lose the Gavel
But that was the beginning of the end for McCarthy, who had made deals in every direction to gain the gavel back in January.
When he reneged on a promise to never agree to a CR, right-wing Republicans voted with Democrats to remove him.
Pushing the Conservative Envelope
In the weeks that followed, Republicans struggled to come up with a candidate to replace McCarthy as speaker.
At the core of the problem was that the GOP was trying to use their slim majority to force a conservative agenda on the House at large.
Ukraine Not Alright With Far Right
And one key component of that conservative agenda appears to be a growing unrest among far-right representatives when it comes to U.S. support for Ukraine in their ongoing war with Russia.
Using Ukraine as a Weapon
Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who led the charge against McCarthy, used the Ukraine argument as fuel for building a case to oust the speaker.
‘Side Deals’ Not Allowed
In fact, Gaetz has long accused McCarthy of making “side deals” with President Joe Biden to funnel aid to Ukraine without going through normal channels in the House.
McCarthy denies that allegation, but he was out the day after Gaetz made his allegation again. “It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference,” Gaetz said at the time.
Gaetz Not Alone
But Gaetz is just one of the more visible GOP House members whose support for Ukraine’s cause appears to be dwindling or gone completely.
A Turning Tide
In a vote to spend $300 million on training for Ukraine soldiers in September, 117 Republican representatives voted “nay.”
That number represents a majority of GOP reps.
And, though that number is far from a majority of the House as a whole, some conservatives have argued that no bill should pass that doesn’t carry a majority of Republican support.
A Familiar Instigating Face
Gaetz is one of the reps leading that charge, too, which has only helped further intensify tensions in Congress’s lower chamber.
He’ll Put ‘America First’
Adding to the strife is the “America First” battle cry that former President Donald Trump has used to bolster the early months of his 2024 campaign.
He Casts a Huge Shadow
With more and more conservatives already leaning toward clamping down on Ukraine aid, the prospect of Trump coming back to office looms large.
They Fever Is Spreading
Even McCarthy, a proponent of funneling aid to Kyiv, denied Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy the chance to speak before congress in the interest of putting “America First.”
Collateral Damage Under the Big Top
The next speaker will have to try to balance the growing unrest in his own party with the need to play nice with Democrats in order to get anything done.
Ukraine may end up paying the price for that uneasy middleground.
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