Party leaders, national security institutionalists and centrists made up the core of the 22 Republicans who joined Democrats in pushing through the military aid, defying former President Donald J. Trump.

Carl Hulse

February 13, 2024

The New York Times


Twenty-two Senate Republicans bucked a majority of their party and former President Donald J. Trump in joining Democrats to approve military assistance, highlighting a widening foreign policy divide in the contemporary Republican Party.

The 22 senators, mainly national security hawks who include several military veterans, provided the votes needed to overcome multiple filibusters backed by a majority of their colleagues, clearing the way for Senate approval early Tuesday morning of $95 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Pacific region. “The thread that binds that group together is national security,” said Senator Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, who is one of the 22. “America’s national security, the belief that what happens in Ukraine matters to the United States, the belief that what happens in Israel matters and the belief that what happens in the South Pacific matters.”

Backing the funding has drawn condemnation from Mr. Trump and his allies, a major factor in the breadth of G.O.P. opposition to it.

Five Republicans who had balked at the bill ultimately voted for it on final passage after trying to use their opposition to win the chance to change it, an effort that proved unsuccessful. Still, less than half of the 49 Republicans voted for it. “Although this legislation is not what we would have drafted, it is a strong bill that makes Idaho and America safer — our first responsibility,” Senators Jim Risch and Michael D. Crapo, both Idaho Republicans, said on Tuesday in a statement explaining their backing for the legislation after earlier votes to block it. Mr. Risch is the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Here’s a closer look at the defectors.

The group included the two top Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Thune of South Dakota, as well as two others on the leadership team: Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

Two other leaders, Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Steve Daines of Montana, both of whom have endorsed Mr. Trump, voted no.

The sharp split on the funding inside the top echelons of the Senate Republican Conference mirrors a sharp division inside the party, which for much of the post-World War II era has been a

strong proponent of exerting American power overseas and standing by U.S. allies. But there is a growing and strong sentiment among Republicans — encouraged by Mr. Trump — of withdrawing from foreign involvement.

Mr. McConnell has been among the most vocal proponents of sending aid to Ukraine. He has called Kyiv’s war against Russian aggression an existential issue and argued with increasing fervor in recent days that the United States must not abandon its democratic ally standing up against President Vladimir V. Putin.

Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who has been leading an effort to slow-walk the military assistance measure, on Monday called the idea that bolstering Ukraine was essential to America’s national security “ludicrous.” “I think sending money to Ukraine actually makes our national security more endangered,” Mr. Paul said. “The leadership has come together, but it is the wrong kind of compromise. It is a compromise to loot the Treasury. They are shoveling out borrowed cash.”

Others who voted for the funding include Senators John Cornyn of Texas, a former top Republican who is interested in rejoining leadership, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the longest-serving Senate Republican.

National security leaders and veterans

Several members of the Armed Services Committee backed the bill, including Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the senior Republican on the panel, Senators Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Ms. Ernst.

Ms. Ernst served overseas as an Iowa National Guard officer, and Mr. Sullivan retired this month as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. A third Republican veteran who has been a strong backer of the aid, Senator Todd Young of Indiana, is a former Marine officer.

Democrats have praised the Republicans who have joined them in the Ukraine effort. “I think they understand the necessity of supporting Ukraine, particularly since this is a contest between a rules-based international order and Russian autocracy,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “They also understand that it could involve our service members soon.”

Mainstream Republicans and appropriators

Members of the Appropriations Committee, including two more-centrist senators — Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the spending panel, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — were also instrumental in pushing the aid. Other appropriators behind the bill included Mr. Moran, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, John Boozman of Arkansas, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Ms. Capito.

The measure had the backing of a handful of others who have been known to break with their party and support bipartisan compromises, including Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.  “I think there is a common understanding that if we fail on this vote, if we don’t

support Ukraine — this is not bluster, this is not hyperbole — bad things are going to happen,” Mr. Tillis said on Monday.

Republican backers of the legislation said they could not worry about Mr. Trump or the potential electoral consequences given the urgency behind the push to restrain Russia and avoid a wider war in Europe or Asia.  “The stakes are high, and we must meet the moment,” Ms. Collins said. As for a potential backlash, Mr. Tillis said he was not worried. “I slept like a baby last night,” he said, referring to his vote on Sunday to overcome the filibuster by a majority of his Republican colleagues.

The following is an alphabetical list of the 22 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for the bill early Tuesday:

  1. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas
  2. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia
  3. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
  4. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota
  5. Senator Michael D. Crapo of Idaho
  6. Senator Susan Collins of Maine
  7. Senator John Cornyn of Texas
  8. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa
  9. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa
  10. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota
  11. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana
  12. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
  13. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas
  14. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
  15. Senator Jim Risch of Idaho
  16. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah
  17. Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota
  18. Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska
  19. Senator John Thune of South Dakota
  20. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina
  21. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi
  22. Senator Todd Young of Indiana


Carl Hulse is the chief Washington correspondent, primarily writing about Congress and national political races and issues. He has nearly four decades of experience reporting in the nation’s capital.