Fri. May 24th, 2024

Ukraine opposition is building with Senate GOP hopefuls, a warning sign for McConnell

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May12,2024

The new class of Senate GOP candidates are lining up against aid to Ukraine, underscoring how the tide is slowly shifting against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies in the upper chamber.

A number of Republican Senate candidates, headlined by those in some of the most likely seats to flip, have said in recent days that they would have voted against the $95 billion package signed by President Biden last month that included aid to Ukraine Israel and Taiwan.

The package was a major win for McConnell, who helped muscle it through Congress and sees support for Ukraine against Russia as one of his final battles as a legislator.

He won majority support for the bill form his caucus, as 30 Senate Republicans sided with him, including a number who had voted against aid in February.

But McConnell’s defectors are coming from the newer classes of GOP senators. Eleven of the 17 Senate Republicans in their first term voted against Ukraine aid.

“We certainly have seen a change in the last six years, partly because you see … a generational shift in the country that’s being reflected,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of the six Senate GOP members in their first term to vote for the aid bill. 

At least four GOP candidates, Tim Sheehy in Montana, Bernie Moreno in Ohio, Kari Lake in Arizona and Rep. Jim Banks in Indiana, have said or indicated they would have voted against aid to Ukraine.

“No,” said Sheehy, when asked for his stance on Ukraine aid in a local TV interview. Sheehy is set to take on Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) this fall in a race that could decide the Senate majority.

“We lumped all these aid packages of completely different geopolitical issues together like we do everything in Congress now, and we lump it all together and vote on it in one single bill. The issues facing Taiwan, the issues facing Ukraine, the issues supporting Israel — they’re all different,” Sheehy said. 

“We need to be supporting our allies, no question about it,” Sheehy continued. “I’m not against supporting our allies at all. But each of those scenarios, the American people deserve a real discussion on those, and they should be able to choose, frankly, between them. Because what Ukraine is facing, and what Israel is facing in sending billions of dollars to Gaza, which will end up in the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah, and supporting Taiwan are very distinct and separate geopolitical issues that should be voted on separately.”

A spokesperson for Moreno, who is running against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) told The Hill that while Moreno backed the aid for Tel Aviv in the package, he “would have opposed the larger bill.” 

Sheehy and Moreno are backed by former President Trump, who has been skeptical of aid to Ukraine.

As for Lake, another Trump ally, she panned the package during a recent interview for prioritizing support for Ukraine instead of the U.S./Mexico border. It’s a stance she shares with a number of conservatives who voted against it.

“You’re representing the people of America, and it’s about time you start caring about the people of this country, instead of caring so much about the border in Ukraine and the people of Ukraine,” she told Newsmax. “Americans are suffering, and we demand that you start representing us.”

The Senate majority will run through Montana and Ohio this fall, as those seats along with West Virginia represent the GOP’s best chances to claw back seats from Democrats. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice is a heavy favorite.

Republicans only need to gain two seats to win the Senate majority, or one if they also win back the White House.

Banks, who is favored to win his seat in Indiana that is already in the GOP’s hands, voted against the Ukraine portion of the bill, but green-lighted the Israel and Indo-Pacific aid bills. The legislation was brought up in the House for different votes before being packaged together in the Senate.

The rising opposition to Ukraine will only make it harder for supporters of aid to win votes in a future Senate, should some of the Republicans win.

“I think it gets to be heavier with each iteration,” Cramer said. “It’s not going to get easier.” 

Some candidates declined to say how they would have voted one way or another. 

“I’m very pleased that Congress passed assistance for Israel in their war against Hamas. I would have preferred if aid to Ukraine was tied to securing the border — the two should not have been separated and should not have included $10 billion of non-military aid to Ukraine,” Dave McCormick, the Pennsylvania Senate GOP nominee, told The Hill in a statement. “At the end of the day, it remains important to stand up to Putin, but it should have been done differently and more effectively.” 

McCormick will face Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) this fall.

The campaigns of former Rep. Mike Rogers (D-Mich.) and Wisconsin’s Eric Hovde declined to comment.

Justice (R) and Nevada’s Sam Brown did not respond to a request for comment, but Brown’s has indicated to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was against tying aid for Israel with other legislative items. 

Most of the GOP leadership team voted for the final supplemental bill, including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who is leading the effort to end the GOP’s four-year hiatus in the minority.

On the other side, at least two Republican candidates backed the supplemental. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) lauded the package and called on members shortly before the vote to “send a strong and unified message that will help secure peace through strength.”

Hogan hopes to give the GOP a fighting chance to win a seat in Maryland, which has not elected a Republican senator in decades.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), one of the leading candidates to replace outgoing Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), also voted for all four individual bills that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) cobbled together.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Ukraine opposition is building with Senate GOP hopefuls, a warning sign for McConnell”
  1. Would these GOP candidates’ stance on aid to Ukraine align with the majority of voters in their states?

  2. As an American voter, it’s troubling to see potential Senate GOP candidates opposing aid to Ukraine. It’s important to support our allies and stand against Russian aggression. McConnell’s leadership is being put to the test.

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