More than half of House Republicans didn’t attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Wednesday night address to Congress, The Hill reported on Thursday.
According to The Hill, 86 out of 213 House Republicans were at the Capitol for Zelensky’s speech. While some of the absences could be explained by lawmakers getting an early start on Christmas travel, as about a third of House members had active letters to vote by proxy on Wednesday, there is growing opposition to the policy of arming Ukraine among Republicans.
Ahead of Zelensky’s address, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) wrote on Twitter that he would not be attending the speech of a “Ukrainian lobbyist.” Some Republicans that attended the address were spotted sitting during moments when the rest of Congress was giving Zelensky a standing ovation, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
After the speech, Boebert said in a video posted on Twitter that she wouldn’t support “sending additional money to this war” until “Congress receives a full audit of where our money has already gone.”
Gaetz released a statement that said Zelensky “should be commended for putting his country first, but American politicians who indulge his requests are unwilling to do the same for ours.” Gaetz said the speech did not change his stance on “suspending” aid to Ukraine.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who attended the address, said the speech sent the wrong message. “We should be focused on trying to contain the war, not expand the war. And this kind of sends the message we’re kind of OK with expanding the war. And I think we should be sending a different message,” he said.
Massie, Boebert, Gaetz, Davidson, and 53 other House Republicans all voted against the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill that was passed back in May. Since then, new aid for Ukraine has been rolled into other massive spending bills, including the new $45 billion that was packed into the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill the Senate passed on Thursday.
While there is some dissent among Republicans, the majority of GOP members in Congress still support arming Ukraine, and Republican leadership is extremely hawkish on the issue. Rep. Michael McCaul, who is expected to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee next year, has criticized President Biden for not sending Ukraine more advanced and longer-range weapons.
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that arming Ukraine was the “number one priority” of most Republicans in Congress as he celebrated the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill.