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Why 14 GOP reps balked at condemning Myanmar's military coup

Reacting to Friday's House vote, one observer asked, "Is there now a pro-coup caucus?" It's a provocative question that probably deserves an answer.

It was seven weeks ago today when military leaders in Myanmar announced that they'd taken control of the country's government; civilian leaders were in custody; and the people of Myanmar should expect a "state of emergency" to last a year.

Not surprisingly, there were large-scale demonstrations calling for the return of the elected government, leading to a crackdown by security forces targeting anti-coup protesters. It wasn't long before President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against those responsible for the military coup.

As is often the case, U.S. lawmakers also wanted to send a signal in support of democracy, and took up a resolution late last week to condemn the coup. It was expected to pass unanimously. As Reuters noted, it didn't.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly approved legislation condemning the military coup in Myanmar, as lawmakers decried increasingly harsh tactics used to suppress demonstrations since the Feb. 1 ouster of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The measure passed by 398 to 14, with one voting "present." All of the "no" and "present" votes came from Republicans.

For the record, here is a list of the House GOP member who voted against the bipartisan resolution. If it seems like a list of some of Congress' most far-right lawmakers, it's not your imagination.

  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)
  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.)
  • Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.)
  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas)
  • Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.)
  • Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.)
  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)
  • Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.)
  • Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.)
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)

Also note, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), another far-right member, voted "present," rather than taking a stand one way or the other.

It's worth mentioning for context that these members knew the resolution would pass easily, but they chose to vote against it anyway. What's more, the resolution was largely symbolic: it has no force of law and was written as a way to convey to the people of Myanmar that the United States stands in support of democratically elected governments, against military coups, and for the release of political prisoners.

The question, of course, is why 14 House Republicans thought it'd be a good idea to oppose such a measure.

For his part, Arizona's Andy Biggs defended his vote by saying the United States "can't simply be the military police for the entire world." That's not an unreasonable position in a general sense, but the resolution didn't require the United States to be the "military police" for anyone; it was a symbolic, non-binding resolution.

There's another school of thought that suggests GOP members like these are knee-jerk contrarians: if "the establishment" is going in one direction, they'll go in the other simply as a matter of principal. Folks like these 14 Republicans vote "no" all the time on uncontroversial measures, so perhaps this was just the latest in a larger pattern.

The less benign interpretation is that this far-right contingent may have opposed the resolution because they see some merit in military takeovers of civilian governments.

The New Yorker's Susan Glasser, reacting to Friday's House vote, asked, "Is there now a pro-coup caucus?" It's a provocative question that probably deserves an answer.