Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky went on a big media tour to praise President Biden’s foreign policy, to take credit for a massive additional spending package for Ukraine, and to virulently attack the 11 Republican senators and 57 Republican members of Congress who voted against it.
“McConnell Casts Ukraine Vote as Victory Over Republican Party’s Isolationist Wing,” touted the Wall Street Journal, using a derogatory and inaccurate term to describe the growing coalition that opposes Biden’s non-strategic foreign policy that appears untethered to any long-term national security interest.
McConnell wants to be associated with the Democrats’ bill, and he should be remembered as having helped its passage. In fact, he worked with Democrats to expand the bill from President Biden’s initial request of $33 billion and to smooth legislative hurdles for easy passage. The passage of the bill brings the total U.S. funding for Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia to more than $50 billion.
McConnell’s victory tour was lapped up by a D.C. media establishment that shares his goal of returning the Republican Party to its Bush-era foreign policy, and to disparage any voices supportive of former President Donald Trump, who had expressed concern about the costs and national security risks of escalating the war in Russia.
“Why are we giving more than $40 billion to Ukraine while Europe, by comparison, is giving very little, and they are greatly more impacted by a Russian invasion, obviously, than the U.S.,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted, “Spending $40 billion on Ukraine aid – more than three times what all of Europe has spent combined – is not in America’s interests. It neglects priorities at home (the border), allows Europe to freeload, short changes critical interests abroad and comes w/ no meaningful oversight. That’s not isolationism. That’s nationalism. It’s about prioritizing American security and American interests.”
By contrast, National Review praised the passage of the bill and mocked concerns over the dollar amount.
Still, nearly one in four Republican senators declined to support the massive spending package.
“It’s a small isolationist group, somewhat encouraged by the former president. But it’s not widely held among Republicans in Congress, and I don’t think among the public in general,” McConnell told Politico.
“Opposing big government spending is not isolationism, it’s common sense,” Paul responded dryly. “Our country faces an inflation crisis and adding more debt now is a mistake.”
Working to avoid quagmires and nuclear wars during a time of economic malaise is not “isolationism,” but it’s also not true that the group opposing McConnell and Biden is “small.”
Just a few weeks ago, the D.C. establishment went all out to prevent the nomination of Ohio’s J.D. Vance for the Senate. He had expressed strong opposition to neoliberal foreign policy, including in its application in Ukraine. Vance won. One of the 11 senators who voted no — John Boozman of Arkansas — almost certainly did so bolstered by a desire to win his looming primary.
Paul and Boozman were joined by Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Mike Lee of Utah, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama in voting against the bill. McConnell was able to get Ted Cruz and others to join Mitt Romney and John Cornyn in voting for the war package — and get each of them to put out defensive statements about why they did it — but the response from voters was not what they hoped for.
The Republicans cast their vote just before polling showed that Republicans were beginning to seriously sour on McConnell’s plan to embroil them in another lengthy war, just months after the disastrous end of the poorly managed Afghanistan war.
Wars are always popular initially, and the U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s battle against the Russian invasion was no exception. Pollsters liked to trumpet that fact when only a few brave pundits and analysts were pushing back against the D.C. groupthink in favor of escalation.
But left-wing pollster Morning Consult showed that “Republican voters are increasingly skeptical of America’s role in Ukraine,” and that “The share of GOP voters who say the U.S. is doing ‘too much’ in Ukraine has doubled since early March.”
For the first time in the poll, the share of Republicans who say the United States is doing “too much” exceeded the percentage that said the United States was doing “too little.”
And a brand-new Associated Press poll shows that voters across the political spectrum are souring on the Biden-McConnell foreign policy approach toward Ukraine.
“Americans are becoming less supportive of punishing Russia for launching its invasion of Ukraine if it comes at the expense of the U.S. economy,” the Associated Press reports.
In March, a majority of Americans polled said the United States should make sanctioning Russia effectively its priority. Now, a majority say that limiting economic damage to the United States should be the priority.
McConnell’s decision to latch himself to Biden’s foreign policy approach — and bash his colleagues who oppose it — comes at a time Biden is dealing with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, according to the Associated Press. While Americans continue to support assisting Ukraine, only a minority of 44 percent favor sending funds directly to the scandal-ridden country. Another 32 percent are opposed and 23 percent were neither in favor nor opposed.
And fully 49 percent of Americans polled expressed a desire for the United States to have only a minor role. The United States is far and away the biggest funder of the war effort.