Republicans fracture over Ukraine aid package as GOP's nationalist camp grows bolder
Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown Saint Louis in 2016. (Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com)

While many political leaders on both sides agree that the Russian invasion necessitated an international response, there are many in the Republican Party who are ready for a fight over a defense sending bill that would provide aid to Ukraine.

Politico reported that the debate has become yet another one in the fractured Republican Party where the establishment is being opposed by the increasing ranks of far-right "America First" caucus. Even Donald Trump has come out against sending money to Ukraine, although he previously held up aid to them after Russia invaded Crimea and the House and Senate approved aid.

According to the GOP caucus, the nearly $40 billion package should be spent on domestic problems and not on Ukraine. But that demand is coming up against the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who was photographed grinning with other members when President Volodymyr Zelensky met with the members over the weekend while they were in Ukraine.

Already Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has come out against it and stopped a quick vote on the defense package last week which would have delivered unanimous consent. The bill will pass, but Paul joined others in trying to stop it. That list includes the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and 46 other Republicans.

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Even with the Republicans speaking out against the bill, the Associated Press described it as "an audacious departure from an overwhelming sentiment in Congress that quickly helping Ukraine was urgent, both for that nation’s prospects of withstanding Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack and for discouraging the Russian president from escalating or widening the war."

As Politico explained, the claim that money going to Ukraine would be spent on U.S. projects is "alarming fellow Republicans who see it as a flawed argument and part of a disturbing trend toward isolationism." The idea is that a "nationalist camp" of the GOP wants money spend on Americans in need, however, those same voters have opposed the funding bill that would have given those in need money. The Build Back Better plan would have made the child tax credit permanent, it would have allowed paid maternity leave, paid family leave and funding for seniors who need medical aides at home or in short-staffed nursing homes.

It's yet another in the larger problems dividing the GOP over the future of their party as a Trump Party or continuing with what it has been pre-Trump. Polling shows that Republican voters are quickly turning toward the former (79 percent).

"Yet the nationalist camp, determined to create a questionable either-or choice between foreign assistance and help for Americans in need, is growing ever larger and louder. And senior Republicans are taking on their colleagues more openly, defending the $40 billion aid package at a critical time for Ukraine’s war effort.

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“I don’t know what their alternative is. We’ve seen world wars started over less than what is happening in Europe,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who went to Ukraine with McConnell. "Even though it’s a lot of money, it’s a small investment relative to a world war."

“A Putin victory is against our national security interests. Period,” added Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “And that’s how we have to look at it.”

But his colleague, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who claimed, “Everything that President Biden has done since taking office has weakened America … and our enemies have noticed. They are taking advantage of the Biden administration’s weakness.”

Reports last month revealed that behind the scenes, Johnson was exchanging text messages with the State Department over Trump withholding aid to Ukraine in 2018 and 2019 being linked to the president's demand to come up with dirt on Joe Biden.