As the final results come in, the Republican Party will see at least a few new faces in Congress come January.
Voters took to the polls with inflation as the top issue on their minds. Approximately a third of voters rated it the most important issue, and as a result 7 in 10 of them cast votes for Republicans, Edison Research exit polls show. What is perhaps not clear to the average American is how unrestrained spending on Ukraine and a U.S. energy policy that puts Europe first contributed to skyrocketing inflation and the cost of living reaching unbearable levels for American families. As new Republican members enter the halls of Congress, it is time to turn the “America First” rhetoric into policies that push back against the establishment.
It is no secret that the U.S. posture toward Ukraine has now evolved from arm’s length, emergency support to full-on alliance without a formal treaty. It seems every time more military aid goes out to Ukraine, there are calls from Ukraine for yet more, and establishment members of Congress are all too eager to cut seemingly endless checks. Total aid passed by Congress is now greater than $66 billion, making Ukraine the single greatest recipient of security assistance in a single year since the Vietnam era.
Blank-check diplomacy is already creating a clash between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. McConnell has more or less led the charge on overzealous aid to Ukraine. McCarthy, who is looking to become House speaker should Republicans reclaim the chamber, rallied a vote against another $12.3 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine. McCarthy tied his position back to the economic pressures that out-of-control spending has placed on the backs of the American people, saying, “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.” Big-name newly elected members agree with him. Eric Schmitt, the newly elected senator from Missouri, tweeted, “$40 billion to Ukraine but we can’t protect our own southern border? Americans have had enough of Washington’s America Last agenda.”
New Members Must Resist the Establishment
Don’t expect the Republican establishment to let such pushback stand without a fight. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., called McCarthy’s sentiment “disgraceful,” and former Vice President Mike Pence said, “We must continue to provide Ukraine with the resources to defend themselves.” Pence also said, “There can be no room in the conservative movement for apologists for Putin.” He’s right, and to clear the air, nothing in the sentiment of putting America’s national interests first includes making Russian President Vladimir Putin a pal. Claims to the contrary are pure fearmongering. To build on the vice president’s maxim, however, there should also be no room in the conservative movement for bystanders who allow Europe to free-ride on American security ad infinitum. To those incoming “America First” Republicans, get ready to fight.
To that end, why should new members care to embrace the fight? The answer is simple. America cannot effectively counterbalance China if it’s embroiled in a modern-day, insanely expensive Marshall Plan as a result of Ukraine. Don’t take my word for it. The head of U.S. Strategic Command warned earlier this month, “The big one (i.e., a conflict with China) is coming. And it isn’t going to be very long before we’re going to get tested in ways that we haven’t been tested in a long time. … We have to do some rapid, fundamental change(s) in the way we approach the defense of this nation.”
Fighting for an America First Foreign Policy
If new members want to make a splash in the foreign policy space, file a bill on day one that diverts appropriated funding from Ukraine to ensuring U.S. naval and air superiority against China or toward securing the southern border.
A fight for an America First foreign policy is not for the faint of heart. It will take legislative creativity, solid messaging to show the American people how much money is flowing overseas to protect European security at the expense of our own, and the courage not to crack under the pressure of the elite establishment and the military-industrial complex.
What is there to gain? The credit for righting the dysfunctional state of American security priorities, and most importantly the respect of the men and women who don a military uniform and are asked to go to the front lines. No more endless wars. No more American bloodshed overseas so defense companies can turn a profit. No more bailing out allies who can and should be leading their own security efforts. Ukraine will be the first test of the new Congress on just how far America First sentiment translates into action. Buckle up and dare to be bold, newcomers.