After eight votes in Congress since July on whether to send military aid to Ukraine, the most important vote for Ukraine did not have the word “Ukraine” in it.

On Oct. 3, Matt Gaetz, the Republican congressman from Florida, launched a motion to fire Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives as punishment for crafting a proposal to keep the government open, which passed with more Democrat votes than Republican. But McCarthy’s biggest sin, in the eyes of Gaetz and his cohort, was a vote for $330 million in aid to Ukraine that passed despite a majority of Republicans voting against it.

The Speaker controls what legislation is put up for a vote. Proposing legislation opposed by the Speaker’s own party is almost unheard of. Both parties operate this way.


Every Democrat joined Gaetz and seven other far-right extremists to oust a speaker for the first time in US history.

What motivates Gaetz?

Not policy. Gaetz and his ilk learned that shouting “No!” loud enough and long enough on any issue raises millions of dollars for their campaigns from tens of thousands of donors across America. Ukraine just happened to be the issue of the day.

Last year, Gaetz raised $3.7 million from 35,000 donors, 80 percent of which were from outside his home state. For perspective, the average member of Congress has around 2,000 donors, mostly in their own home state.

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Why did a majority of Republicans vote against aid to Ukraine?

Most Republicans I talked to on Capitol Hill last week recognize that not funding Ukraine could embolden Xi Jinping to invade Taiwan and create an environment for war on two continents. They want to do the right thing, but they are getting barraged with irate calls from the people who elected them.

Much of the opposition is fueled by Kremlin propaganda targeting conservatives through popular sources of information like Tucker Carlson. Some of it is fueled by competing priorities, like the recent surge of migrants into the US. Prior to Tuesday, there was talk of trading border money for Ukraine aid. Gaetz blew that up.


What happens next?

Much depends on who succeeds McCarthy. The good news is that the President, a majority of the Senate and a majority of the House still support aid to Ukraine. The bad news is that both candidates for Speaker are lukewarm at best about Ukraine aid, and they just saw their predecessor fired because of it.

Of the 9 votes on Ukraine aid since May of last year, 67 Republicans have voted against it 7 times or more. This is the base of opposition. Conversely, 19 Republicans voted against aid for the first or second time last week. These Republicans can be won back.

Ukraine needs to learn new methods of diplomacy and communications. Winning back Republicans under electoral pressure means getting good information about the war into their districts. For starters, only 25 percent of Americans and 17 percent of Republicans think Ukraine is winning. Most say they don’t know.

Anna Shvetsova, Ukraine Freedom Project’s COO, was recently in the US and personally thanked almost every American she met. “American weapons keep my family safe.” Even the most hardened Trump voters softened. One woman cried.


Ukraine’s tiny Navy has chased the Russian Black Sea fleet out of Crimea. Ukraine must perform similarly against a much bigger and well-funded Russian propaganda machine in the United States.

Steven Moore, founder of the Ukraine Freedom Project, has been in Ukraine since day 5 of the war. Previously, Moore was chief of staff to a Republican member of leadership in the House of Representatives. He writes on Substack at @steveninkyiv.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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