Republican opposition to Ukraine funding seeps closer to the middle

The House on Wednesday evening rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) that would have blocked security assistance to Ukraine. It wasn’t a particularly close vote, with the supporters of reducing aid to the embattled country losing by a 339-to-93 vote. All 93 votes to cut aid came from Republicans.

What’s telling about this isn’t simply that it’s Republicans who were most likely to back an amendment from another Republican. What’s more notable is that a similar amendment from Gaetz in July was defeated by a wider margin — that a number of Republicans have shifted toward support of Gaetz’s position. And those Republicans are closer to the political center than those who joined Gaetz several months ago.

One measure of ideology comes from Voteview, which calculates a score called DW-NOMINATE. The calculation is complex (and somewhat disputed) but orients legislators on a scale from minus-1, most liberal, to plus-1, indicating the most conservative legislators.

Below, every member of the House who voted on the July and September Gaetz amendments is shown, from the most- to least-conservative members. You’ll notice that at the top, most of the circles are orange, indicating that most of the most-conservative members supported Gaetz in both cases. But then there are the red-outlined circles, the members who just came on board in the most recent vote.

Notice where they sit: often, closer to the ideological middle — particularly relative to the rest of the caucus.

Again, the measure failed in both months. In fact, most Republicans continued to oppose the amendment. But the trend shows an erosion of support for backing Ukraine, a pattern that’s reached the middle of the caucus.

This reflects movement among Republicans more broadly. YouGov has repeatedly polled Americans on their view of Ukraine aid. In August 2022, 6 in 10 respondents said that they thought support for the country in its efforts to repel the Russian invasion should be increased or maintained at the same level. In polling released this month, YouGov found that just under half of Americans still felt that way.

The big change was among Republicans. In August 2022, about 3 in 10 Republicans thought aid should be reduced. This month, support for that position had doubled.

This helps explain the shift in the House, of course. Legislators are responsive to constituents, particularly when the issues at stake are national ones and the sentiments stoked in a national debate.

The House votes measure something slightly different, though: that this view of the Ukraine conflict has moved from Gaetz and right-wing legislators such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and media figures like Tucker Carlson to legislators who are less easily categorized that way.

Whether this trend continues is a question Ukraine advocates will hope to answer as soon as possible.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post