Fifty-seven House Republicans voted this week against the nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, signaling the first cracks in the bipartisan consensus behind Kyiv — and potentially, the limits in the American appetite for helping this foreign country in its war against Russia while there are so many problems at home. Only 10 House Republicans had voted against sending Ukraine military equipment under an updated Lend-Lease Act back in April.
Some cited the baby formula shortage and inflation as domestic concerns that should override deepening involvement in Ukraine's war to repel Russia. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) raised transparency and fiscal responsibility concerns about the speed with which the money was being rammed through. It is the makings of an "America First" argument that could become problematic for repeatedly going back to the well for aid money. The Biden administration had estimated its original request would tide the Ukrainians over for about five months.
Yes, some of the more controversial and cartoonish Republicans are taking the lead here. It looked like Ukraine was going to be a major setback for populists in the GOP after Senate candidate J.D. Vance's seeming nonchalance about the Russian invasion compared to various crises in the United States.
But Vance won his primary. And as Biden shifts from hair-splitting about what would constitute an invasion to a growing involvement in what sure looks like a proxy war with Russia, his hawkishness will become as inviting a target as his dovishness was in the aftermath of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Americans mostly support Ukraine against Russian aggression. That is unlikely to change anytime soon. It is, after all, the Russians who invaded, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been masterful in his appeal to a U.S. public that instinctively sides with the Kremlin's victims.
But in a time of scarcity and trouble, that well of support is unlikely bottomless. There are some questions about our Ukraine policy that need to be asked. Don't be surprised if more Republicans in Congress start raising them.