Far left, far right find common ground opposing US interventionism
It’s not often that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) vote the same way.
The defections by 17 House lawmakers of both parties in an otherwise widely bipartisan vote this week to ban Russian oil imports and impose further sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine highlighted how wariness of U.S. interventionism is a rare area of agreement on the far left and far right.
The overwhelmingly lopsided vote included two progressives — Omar and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) — joining with 15 conservative Republicans registering their opposition.
Omar said that she opposed it out of concerns that the move would have a “devastating impact” on the people of Russia and Europe and questioned whether sanctions would really hurt the Kremlin leaders waging war.
And on the GOP side, Greene and others warned that banning Russian oil imports would result in even higher gas prices for Americans and potential reliance on other oil-rich nations such as Venezuela.
“At least there are two of us who refuse to allow Biden to hurt Americans suffering from rapidly rising gas prices,” Greene tweeted in response to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) explaining his opposition to the legislation.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), another Republican who voted against the bill, similarly argued that the move “will make Americans poorer and less safe.”
“My compassion for Ukrainians won’t force my hand to hurt my own people,” Gaetz wrote in an op-ed for The National Pulse.
To be sure, the vote demonstrated how lawmakers wary of the strategy to ban Russian oil were firmly in the minority.
The legislation, which also authorizes sanctions for human rights abuses and calls for reviewing Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization, easily sailed through the House, with 414 lawmakers voting in favor of it. That included the top congressional leaders in both parties.
The widespread support for the bill is reflective of public sentiment backing sanctions on Moscow across ideological lines.
A Wall Street Journal poll this week, for instance, found that 79 percent of Americans support a ban on Russian oil imports even if it drives up gas prices.
“I think the heart of it is a very clear moral narrative. You have the clearest possible case of aggression against a country that did nothing to deserve the attack and whose leader, a former television comedian, has turned into the reincarnation of Winston Churchill, if Winston Churchill had been a Jewish comedian,” said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Americans, however, are drawing the line when it comes to direct military intervention. A NewsNation-Decision Desk HQ survey found that only 35 percent backed deploying troops into the conflict.
President Biden said Friday that the U.S. and NATO allies would not engage in direct conflict with Russia in Ukraine, describing such a scenario as “World War III.”
The reluctance to send troops into Ukraine is reflective of public weariness with drawn-out U.S. involvement in foreign wars, particularly the lengthy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
“It is no secret that really ever since Vietnam, the Democratic Party has had a group — I think never a majority, but always a group — of elected officials, who for reasons that are pretty easy to understand, are very, very cautious about new military interventions anywhere,” Galston said.
And former President Trump’s “America First” platform also “made that sort of sentiment respectable, or at least viable, in a certain right-wing populist portion of the Republican Party,” Galston said.
A House vote last week on a resolution to declare support for Ukraine’s sovereignty similarly passed with near-unanimous support of 426-3. Massie and Reps. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) were the three lone Republicans to register their opposition to the symbolic resolution.
Massie and Gosar also opposed the legislation to ban Russian oil this week.
“For a year we have been living with an ‘America last administration.’ This bill is a case in point on how Americans are the last priority and the Democrats will bend over to help anyone but the voters here,” Gosar said.
A larger number of Republicans voted against this week’s legislation: Reps. Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, Massie, Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Glenn Grothman (Wis.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Tom Tiffany (Wis.), Clay Higgins (La.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Bill Posey (Fla.) and Chip Roy (Texas).
Democrats, meanwhile, were more widely in favor of backing the legislation reflective of their party’s president’s strategy toward the Ukraine crisis. The vote came a day after Biden announced that his administration would ban the imports of Russian oil, natural gas and coal.
Bush said she had “deep concerns” that the ban on Russian oil imports would be used to justify more U.S. domestic drilling and lead to relying on oil from authoritarian governments.
“I support sanctions that target the murderous Putin regime, Russian oligarchs, and corporate fossil fuel executives profiting off human suffering. I opposed the House bill to ban oil imports from Russia because it fails to address the underlying problem of imposing sanctions that are not accompanied with a clear diplomatic process for de-escalation, incentives for a ceasefire, and a condition of withdrawal of Russian military forces in Ukraine,” Bush said in a statement.
“This approach categorically makes our communities less safe, does nothing to jumpstart our transition to renewable energy, and further burdens regular, everyday people already financially strained by the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis,” she said.
The House is expected to take action in the coming days to further punish Russia for its attack on Ukraine.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the House will vote next week on a bipartisan bill to revoke normal trade relations with Russia, after Biden called for such a move on Friday.
This week’s House bill had stopped short of an original bipartisan agreement crafted by the leaders of congressional committees with jurisdiction over trade policy that would have suspended normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.
“By revoking permanent normal trade relations from Russia, and doing so with an historic level of coordination with our partners abroad, we will further counter [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s diabolical aggression against the people of Ukraine,” Pelosi said.