The chaos in the House may have devastating outcomes for the people of Ukraine, some experts warn As he excoriated Kevin McCarthy over his leadership of the House Republican conference last week, hard-right congressman Matt Gaetz accused the then speaker of cutting a “secret side deal” with Joe Biden to provide additional funding to Ukraine amid its ongoing war against Russia.
“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference,” Gaetz, who represents a solidly Republican district in Florida, said in a floor speech at the time.The day after Gaetz delivered that speech, McCarthy was out of a job, becoming the first House speaker in US history ever to be ejected from office. Although McCarthy denied the existence of a side deal, Gaetz’s complaints underscored how funding for Ukraine served as one of the thorniest issues during the former speaker’s brief and contentious tenure.
As Donald Trump’s “America First” philosophy has gained popularity among Republicans, anti-Ukraine sentiment has spread through the party’s base and now into the halls of Congress. Even as bipartisan support for Ukraine remains robust in the Senate, a majority of the House Republican conference appears skeptical if not outright hostile to the idea of more funding.
That dynamic has further complicated House Republicans’ already difficult task of electing a new speaker, as any speaker candidate must negotiate with hard-right lawmakers who adamantly oppose more funding for Kyiv. Those lawmakers have made Ukraine funding a top priority in the search for a new speaker, and that tension raises serious questions about whether Congress will be able to approve another aid package, especially now that much of their attention has shifted to the war between Israel and Hamas. If lawmakers cannot pass more funding, Ukraine supporters warn the consequences could be deadly.
“This is critical to the war effort for Ukraine, which is then critical to the defense of Europe and, I think, critical to US national security,” said Max Bergmann, the director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “If Congress doesn’t act now, then a lot of Ukrainians are going to die.”
The rising opposition to funding Ukraine among Republicans appears to be a direct response to Trump’s approach to foreign policy, which has resonated deeply with the more isolationist faction of his party. That philosophy has frustrated establishment Republicans, who embrace the party’s traditional vision of diplomacy, remembering the days of Ronald Reagan using the country’s military and economic might to fight communism abroad.
“Republicans once stood against communism and thugs like Vladimir Putin, but it’s a shame that not every Republican is speaking out against what Russia is doing to Ukraine,” said Gunner Ramer, a spokesperson for the group Republicans for Ukraine.
Ramer’s group, which is a project of the anti-Trump conservative group Defending Democracy Together, often conducts focus groups with Republican voters. Those discussions have seen an increase in anti-Ukraine sentiment in recent months, Ramer said, and polling confirms that trend.