About four years ago, as Donald Trump complained about NATO, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill seemed eager to express their support for the alliance. In July 2018, as the House passed a non-binding resolution expressing support for NATO by unanimous voice vote, then-Speaker Paul Ryan described the international coalition as “indispensable.”
GOP politics has not improved in the years since. Politico reported this morning:
More than five dozen House Republicans voted against a bipartisan resolution expressing “unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an alliance founded on democratic principles” and urging the creation of a center to protect democracy around the world.
To be sure, the non-binding resolution, which doesn’t require any action from Congress, passed easily: The final vote was 362 to 63, and every member of both parties’ leadership teams voted in the majority.
But four years after literally every member of the House supported a resolution in support of NATO, 63 House Republicans — representing nearly a third of the GOP conference — voted “no” last night. They knew the measure would pass anyway, but these GOP lawmakers wanted to go on the record voicing their disapproval.
By any fair measure, this was not an especially controversial resolution. It was based on three seemingly anodyne provisions. As the text explained, the measure:
- "reaffirms its unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an alliance founded on democratic principles;
- "calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to adopt a new Strategic Concept for NATO that is clear about its support for shared democratic values and committed to enhancing NATO’s capacity to strengthen democratic institutions within NATO member, partner, and aspirant countries; and
- "calls on the President to use the voice and vote of the United States to establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO headquarters."
So why vote “no”? According to Politico’s report, Maryland’s Andy Harris complained about the provision in the resolution that said democracies across the NATO alliance “face external threats from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China and internal threats from proponents of illiberalism.” The Republican congressman insisted this was “left-wing” code for criticizing Poland and Hungary.
The measure’s bipartisan authors said otherwise, but that didn’t stop 63 GOP members from opposing the resolution anyway.