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Why Elise Stefanik’s vote against security aid for Ukraine matters

Elise Stefanik is the only House GOP leader in contention for Donald Trump’s ticket. She's also the only GOP leader who opposed security aid for Ukraine.


While there are some Republicans in Congress who’ve been accused of siding with Russia in its war with Ukraine, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has not been among them. In fact, after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of his neighbor, the New York congresswoman largely blamed her own country’s president, before also denouncing Russia’s authoritarian leader.

“I join the American people in praying for the safety of innocent Ukrainians as they endure an unwarranted and unjustified invasion by a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator,” Stefanik wrote in February 2022. “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and deranged thug. We must stand with democracies under assault.”

Two years later, the House Republican leader no longer appears quite so eager to stand with a democracy under assault. The Washington Post reported on the vote tally as the House approved security aid for Ukraine over the weekend.

A majority of Republicans voted against Ukraine aid on Saturday, in a reflection of the stiff resistance within the G.O.P. to continuing to aid Ukraine against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s invasion. The coalition that voted against the bill extended from right-wing members of the House Freedom Caucus to leadership, such as Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican.

For the most part, the divisions among GOP members in the House have separated party leaders, trying to prevent breakdowns in Republican governance, and rank-and-file radicals, who take an uncompromising approach to their far-right vision.

With this in mind, while House Freedom Caucus members were only too pleased to vote against security aid for Ukraine on Saturday, the House Republican leadership went in the opposite direction: House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer each voted with Democrats to advance the legislation.

But there was one notable exception: The top three House Republican leaders voted to support the United States’ ally in the midst of Russian aggression, but Stefanik ignored her colleagues in the GOP leadership and voted with far-right members instead — her earlier rhetoric about "standing with democracies under assault" notwithstanding.

I’d gladly refer readers to her press release or social media missives explaining why she voted this way, but the New York congresswoman doesn’t appear to have issued any kind of statement, at least not as of this morning.

I won’t pretend to be able to read Stefanik’s mind, though it’s worth noting for context that she’s currently the only House GOP leader in contention for Donald Trump’s 2024 ticket, which has led her in some highly unfortunate directions in recent months as part of an intraparty race to the bottom. She was also the only House Republican leader who sided with the far-right against security aid for Ukraine.