Burke: Even delayed, approval of aid to Ukraine a relief

Facing a threat to his post, the House Speaker allows a vote that Democrats had sought for months.

By Tom Burke / Herald Columnist

Since Russian President Valdimir Putin ordered the invasation of Ukraine in February, 2022 I’ve reminded readers about the war by ending my columns with “Slava Ukraini,” meaning “Glory to Ukraine.”

The salute goes back to the mid-1800s but didn’t become a rallying cry until the country’s unsuccessful fight for independence (from communist Russia) around 1917. After being banned by the reds during their rule, the refrain has reemerged as the rallying cry against Russia’s renewed attack on democracy, freedom, self-determination (and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

The traditional response to Slava Ukraini, “Hereoiam slava!” (Glory to the heroes) pays homage to those who fight (and die) for their country.

Another group, here in the U.S., earned a salute of sorts on Saturday as it finally renewed the military and other aid support President Biden organized in 2022 for 38 million Ukrainians fighting Russia, seeking to conquer their country by murdering, raping and enslaving them as they roll history back to the 1930s when the Russians deliberately starved to death at least 4 million Ukrainians. (Some estimates are as high as 20 million dead, but no matter which figure, it’s easy to see why Ukrainians don’t particularly like the Russians. A lot.)

So I guess (a minor) “Slava Congress” could be proclaimed as the Republican-majority House of Representatives passed an aid bill of $60 billion so Ukrainians can continue their struggle to defeat the vastly over-rated Russian army.

Well, to be sure, it wasn’t really the Republican-majority House that passed the funding, as a majority of Republicans voted against the measure; rather it was a bipartisan effort, with Democrats supplying most of the votes, that got it passed. (Along with funding for Taiwan and Israel and a bill filled with Republican priorities, including a forced sale of TikTok.)

Now it was a long, hard slog to get the funding to the House floor as Donald Trump led a movement causing Republicans to oppose any aid to Kyiv, saying it should not be considered unless the Democrats agreed to stringent anti-immigration measures.

But when Senate Democrats agreed to pairing the aid with the stiff border enforcement the Republicans demanded, Trump promptly denounced the deal — claiming chaos at the border helps his campaign — and Republicans dutifully rejected the Senate bill (on Trump’s orders) and more Ukrainian heroes died while Republicans bloviated, blocked and bs’ed their responsibility to govern.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, controlling what comes up for House votes, had, for months, blocked the vote, with the delay killing thousands. It wasn’t until after he received classified U.S. intelligence briefings that he suprisingly challenged the Trump-MAGA pro-Putin world view saying:

“I really do believe the intel and briefings that we’ve gotten. I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Balkans next. I think we might have a showdown with Poland, or one of our NATO allies and we might find ourselves sending troops to defend allies from Putin later.”

He added he had made the decision to advance aid to Kyiv because he “would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.”

“I think this is an important moment and important opportunity to make that decision. I think we did our work here and I think history will judge it well,” he said

(This may be as close as Johnson gets to a “Profiles in Courage” moment as strident hard-line MAGAs have advanced their threat to remove him as speaker if he solicited, or even accepted, any Democratic help. He defied them. We’ll have to see what happens next.)

And an interesting sidebar is recalling not what Rep. Majorie Tayor Greene, R-Ga., — one of three filing a “motion to vacate” Johnson from his post — said about Ukraine; but what her fellow Republicans are saying about what she says (Note: It ain’t flattering).

So consider GOP former representative and ultra-right-wing Freedom Caucus member Ken Buck saying, “Moscow Majorie has reached a new low … Lenin talked about journalists who wrote glowing reports about Russia as useful idiots and I don’t even think that Majorie reaches that level of being a useful idiot here. She is just mouthing Russian propaganda. Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and we should be freedom fighters in this war.”

And the Democrats agreed. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., (she of purple hair and a lot of smarts) remarked, “For months and months, we have been diddling around while people are dying in Ukraine. … If Ukraine does not receive this support that it requires to defeat Russia’s outrageous assault on its sovereign territory, the legacy of this Congress will be the appeasement of a dictator, the destruction of an allied nation and a fractured Europe. Gone will be our credibility, in the eyes of our allies and of our adversaries. And gone will be the America that promised to stand up for freedom, democracy, and human rights, wherever they are threatened or wherever they are under attack.”

As of this writing the Senate is expected to pass the funding and Biden to sign ASAP. The Pentagon says a massive military aid package is “ready to go” as soon as Biden signs off.

As for the future, fear not gentle reader, the Republican House will soon be back to its business-as-usual, legislating such critical GOP issues as the Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act, the Liberty in Laundry Act, the Affordable Air Conditioning Act, the Clothes Dryer Reliability Act, the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, and the Refrigerator Freedom Act.

Ain’t governing grand?

Slava Ukraini. Heroyam slava.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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