Determined to project strong bipartisan support for Kyiv, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Minority Leader, worked for days before the vote to ease anti-interventionist pressure in his party, arguing both privately and publicly to his colleagues that the United States needed to help a young democracy standing between Russian aggression and the Western world.
The pinnacle of that effort came over the weekend, when Mr McConnell traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine, Stockholm and Helsinki, Finland, in what he said was partly an attempt to fend off the former President Donald J. Trump’s hostility to NATO and aid. the legislation itself. When Mr. Trump announced his opposition to the $40 billion package, Mr. McConnell said, he feared “losing a lot more than 11” Republican votes.
The trip was designed “to impress on Europeans that the skepticism of NATO itself, expressed by the previous president, was not the opinion of Republicans in the Senate,” McConnell said. in an interview. “And I was also trying to play down the vote against the package in my own party.”
“We have a sort of isolationist wing,” he continued. “And I think some of the Trump supporters kind of bonded with the isolationists — a lot of talk in the primaries about that kind of stuff. I thought that would help decrease the number of votes against the package. I think it worked well.
Most Republicans considered 2024 presidential candidates — Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida — backed the legislation even in the face of opposition right-wing organizations.
In a 24-minute speech on the Senate floor, announcing his vote on Wednesday night, Mr. Cruz said he had listened carefully to a litany of arguments against the aid bill, including that it was too expensive and bloated with provisions unrelated to military aid. , and that it was not in America’s security interest to counter Russia’s campaign when there were so many domestic problems at home.
But he had come to the conclusion, he said, that the aid was worth supporting.
“There is no doubt that $40 billion is a significant figure, and while much of this expenditure is significant – in fact, some of it is absolutely necessary in military conflict – I would have preferred a much smaller, more focused bill,” Cruz said. mentioned. “But our Ukrainian allies are now winning significant victories with the weapons and training we have already provided them with, and it is in our national interest that they continue to do so.”