Thursday, voting on the amendments for the NDAA (Pentagon budget) began at 2 in the afternoon and didn’t end ’til after 11pm. Marjorie Traitor Greene had 3 pro-Kremlin bills and they were all defeated. Matt Gaetz had 2 and they lost as well. The 5 bills meant to make it easier for Russia to take over Ukraine failed— 100% of Democrats voting no on each one of them and only one Gaetz bill getting a majority of GOP support but still failing because of 9 Republican votes against it— Don Bacon (NE), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR), Anthony D’Esposito (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Jennifer González-Colón (PR), John James (MI), Mike Lawler (NY), Marc Molinaro (NY) and Mike Turner (OH).
The big one— the one Trump and Putin were hoping would pass— was Gaetz’s amendment to cut off all aid to Ukraine. All Democrats and 149 Republicans told Gaetz, the Russo-Republicans and their allies in the Kremlin to take a walk. It failed 70-358. Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz, who was born in Ukraine, spoke on the House floor before the vote: “I disagree that Ukraine is not a national interest. Stopping this war and deterring aggressors like China and Russia, it is in our national interest. Now we need to help Ukraine, and we need to understand that there are a lot of lives are going to, to be lost for Ukrainians, but we need to make sure that we don’t have never-ending war and better and faster security assistance will be help to restore peace.”
Nashville’s version of George Santos, Andy Ogles also put forward a Kremlin-oriented amendment backed by the Russo-Republicans. It failed 71-360, every Democrat and 149 Republicans voting against an amendment to strike a lend-lease authority to Ukraine, making it easier for Russia to overrun the country.
Another loser was Bob Good’s (R-VA) amendment to keep the names of treasonous Confederates on the names of U.S. bases. It failed 177-253, all 212 Democrats being joined by 41 Republicans to defeat it. 177 Republicans— all traitors themselves— voted with Good. Although most of the New York Republicans voted against it, Elise Stefanik is so confused by her sharp turn towards MAGA ideology that she seems to forgotten what district she represents.
U.S. Army veteran Steven Holden is running for the seat Elise Stefanik is operating out of. He was offended by her vote. “There are some tried and true axioms in life,” he told me after the vote. “One of them is never to support anything Bob Good proposes, but Elise Stefanik did not listen to that sage wisdom. Even though she represents a district that includes Fort Drum, which is the largest Army installation in the Northeast. These Confederates were traitors to the United States. So I ask a question— what type of message does this send to African American Soldiers serving at Fort Drum? Having had the honor of Commanding, serving with and for many brave African Americans while in uniform, I can say that it is an offense to them. This is just another reason why Elise Stefanik is unfit to represent the great NY-21st and all the proud Servicemembers, families, Army Civilians, and Veterans who reside here.”
The Rules Committee Republicans disallowed an amendment by California Democrat Sara Jacobs (co-sponsored by Gaetz) to prevent the U.S. from selling cluster bombs abroad. That probably would have passed. Instead, the Riles Committee allowed an amendment by Marjorie Traitor Greene that just targeted Ukraine and would have prohibited Biden from selling cluster munitions to that country only. It failed 147-276, 98 Russo-Republicans voting for it, 121 GOP regulars voting against it, 155 Democrats voting against it and 49 progressives voting for it.
The progressives preferred Jacobs’ ban but they were adamantly opposed to the U.S. selling cluster munitions anywhere and held their noses and went with the Greene amendment. I spoke with several progressives about it. Ro Khanna told me that it “was an important vote of standing for human rights and against the killing of children. I was proud to lead the effort for a yes vote.” Mark Takano explained that while he “remains committed to supporting Ukraine's defense capabilities, I voted for this amendment because these weapons, by nature, pose significant risks of indiscriminate harm to civilian populations. It is crucial that our aid promotes the protection of human rights— consistent with the values of our nation, our partners, and the international community.”
After the vote, Pramila Jayapal, who represents Seattle and is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told me that "We can’t be wishy-washy about this topic based on who sponsors the amendment. That’s why I felt I had to vote for it, because I agree that cluster munitions should not be sent to Ukraine— or anywhere else, for all the reasons I stated in the letter we sent last week (you could link to that). However, this was a very nasty tactic for GOP leadership to use to take what was a bipartisan and much broader amendment about cluster bombs everywhere and placing it with one of the most controversial, extremist, MAGA Republican and narrowing it significantly. I think the GOP leadership wanted this amendment to fail and this was a cynical ploy to peel off votes from both sides for what would otherwise have been an amendment that would have passed. I still believe it was the right thing to do to vote for even this narrowed amendment, despite its sponsor. Our moral leadership and the civilian lives affected by the use of cluster bombs is too important to play games with."
And by the way, all three House members running for the Californai open Senate seat, Katie Porter, Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff, voted for the bill. The only one I managed to speak with about it was Katie, who said “The United States can— and must— both support our ally Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked aggression and exhibit moral leadership that reduces global use of cluster bombs, cruel weapons that 124 countries agree should be eliminated. This week, I voted in accordance with these values and rejected partisanship to do the right thing.”
Yesterday the overall bill passed the House 219-210. 4 extreme right Republicans voted against it— Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Eli Crane (AZ) and Thomas Massie (KY)— but that didn’t tank the bill because Gabe Vasquez (NM) joined the 3 most right-wing Dems in the House— Jared Golden (ME), Marie Gluesenpkamp Perez (WA) and Don Davis (NC)— to rescue it by voting, as they often do, with the Republicans. Takano voted against the bill. “While the FY24 NDAA is intended to strengthen our military and build on our defense operations,” he said in a statement, “it has been coopted to attack diversity efforts within our military instead of focusing on global security challenges, and the increasingly high defense budget will place a burden on the middle class as they face Republican cuts to funding in areas such as health care, housing, and education.”