The list of anti-Ukrainian Republican lawmakers is growing rapidly

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Once belittled by then-President Trump as a “third-rate grand stander,” Rep. Thomas Massie is used to bowing against political windmills.

In early March, the Kentucky Republican was one of only three lawmakers to oppose the first bill aimed at showing US support for Ukraine in its war against an invading Russian army, a familiar lonely place for the lawmaker. with a libertarian tendency often at odds with the leaders of his party.

But on Monday, Massie spoke to Trump for the first time in more than two years – and received the former president’s endorsement in the May 17 primary in Kentucky. And on Tuesday, 56 Republicans joined Massie in opposing the latest attempt to send arms to Ukrainian forces.

“It’s increasing week by week,” he told reporters during an impromptu 20-minute conversation on the House floor on Friday. He suggested that the price to be paid so far was “insane” and that the sanctions against Moscow only increased inflation. “More and more people agree with that. »

Massie, 51, is the only House member to hold a perfect 16-16 record for opposing legislation to support Ukraine and oppose Russia, according to House records and a Democratic analysis provided to the Washington Post.

It was easy to dismiss Massie in early March when he opposed a simple, non-binding resolution declaring American support for Ukraine and demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin call for a ceasefire. Or in late April, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was the only other Republican to oppose a bill to protect religious freedoms in Ukraine.

As Ukraine conflict rages, Congress struggles to legislate response

Gradually, however, with each proposal, a few more Republicans would sign up: eight Republicans opposed the suspension of trade privileges for Russia in mid-March; 17 Republicans opposed a resolution backing Moldova, whose leaders fear their country bordering Ukraine could be Putin’s next target; 19 opposed a similar resolution in favor of Georgia.

Then, on April 27, 55 House Republicans opposed legislation to build secure telecommunications networks in Ukraine and neighboring countries. Finally, on Tuesday, 57 Republicans opposed President Biden’s request for $40 billion in weapons and humanitarian aid, with some saying the legislation was rushed to the ground without detailed consideration. All Democrats supported the president’s request.

Massie saw it as a defining moment.

“That’s the real story. Not that there are 57 Republicans who have woken up to the madness of what we are doing in Ukraine, but that there are no Democrats. Every one of them is on the wrong side of this,” he said.

His views remain in the minority, but his allies in this cause include some of the closest allies of Trump, who is strongly considering another presidential bid and has espoused his own fondness for Putin.

Greene, who frequently appears as a warm-up act for Trump rallies, has opposed 15 of the 16 Ukraine-related measures. Arizona GOP Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul A. Gosar — ​​who backed efforts to try to block certification of President Biden’s 2020 campaign victory — voted against 11 and 10 of the bills related to Ukraine, respectively.

These Republicans sum up their worldview in blunt, nationalistic terms. “Let me ask you,” Greene said in an interview Thursday. “Did Vladimir Putin stop his war in Ukraine because of all these sanctions? No not at all. He did not do anything. So you know what? I care about our country, the United States of America and our people. That’s it. »

Greene, a freshman with no experience in foreign policy, often uses fiery terms that don’t fully capture the geopolitical issue at hand. “Baby formula, baby formula, people can’t find baby formula, with such a shortage. But our Congress is going to send $40 billion to another country,” she said.

But Massie – an engineer who earned multiple degrees from MIT and became an inventor who still holds a number of patents – devoted time and energy to refining his views on America First for five terms at bedroom.

“I am further, I think, than him on the question of NATO. He demanded that the partners pay their share. I would pull us out of NATO,” Massie said of his and Trump’s views on the critical alliance. “It’s a Cold War relic. Our involvement should have ceased when the [Berlin] the wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Inside, Republicans are moving away from support for the NATO alliance

He would have pre-emptively ceded parts of eastern Ukraine to Russia in a way that would have “avoided the deaths of tens of thousands of people”, because that is how he sees the end of the war. war anyway.

“A fractured Ukraine, with the eastern part of it being a satellite or more of government, more respectful to Putin, and the western part more respectful to Europe or the United States,” Massie said.

Those views are anathema to mainstream Republican hawks as well as Democrats in line with Biden, who push for a vigorous foreign policy that works to unify allies, especially in Europe.

“Democrats and Republicans at different times in history have had a more isolationist and nativist wing,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Right now, Republicans are the highest on this. They are playing a very isolationist card.

“Honestly, there’s an isolationist wing within the party that’s traditionally been there,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Smith takes a more optimistic perspective, focusing on how more than 70% of House Republicans backed the latest Ukraine aid package and that on other votes Massie and Greene had little allies.

“Virtually everyone understands that it’s not just about Ukraine. It is about our security, peace and stability in the world. So far, the Republican Party is still here,” Smith said.

McCaul was actually pleasantly surprised that the anti-Ukrainian faction did not expand, which he attributes to the success on the ground of Ukrainian troops and the atrocities committed by Putin’s troops.

“I was really worried, which is interesting, earlier about how this was going to develop,” McCaul said Friday.

He understands that could turn into a long-term commitment and fears that later this year, when Biden will almost inevitably ask Congress for another additional war bill, support will plummet among Republicans.

“I still think there’s really strong support, but it’s something we’re keeping an eye on as we look at the next supplement,” McCaul said. “What’s the appetite for that going to be?” »

Smith worries about the nativist wing’s influence with Trump if he runs for president in 2024. “If Trump is the leader of their party, that’s a huge problem,” he said. declared.

Ahead of Monday’s call, Massie said he last spoke to Trump on March 27, 2020, just off the floor of the House as the then-speaker yelled at him to allow the chamber to unanimously approve the $2 trillion-plus Cares Act to combat the early days of the pandemic.

Massie opposed simple unanimous consent – ​​which would have allowed all but a few members to stay home safely and pass the massive bill without an actual vote. Instead, about 250 lawmakers showed up and gave their vocal support, a bipartisan victory that prompted Trump to seek Massie’s expulsion from the GOP.

He was then re-elected without Trump, and on Monday Trump contacted Massie.

“A glorious phone call,” Massie said.

They didn’t talk about foreign policy or Massie’s votes to certify Biden’s victory. They didn’t discuss Massie’s actions in March 2020. They talked about how Trump’s uncle taught at MIT for several decades.

Subsequently, Trump released a public statement declaring Massie a “first-rate” defender of his policies, back in his good graces.

“A promotion from third class to first class,” Massie said.

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