Aid to Ukraine and the GOP Divide: Speaker Johnson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Mike Garcia


April 18, 2024 - "Our Republican majority is a complete failure," Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga, posted on X on Mar 21, 2024. Greene then moved to remove Speaker Johnson from his post Speaker Johnson’s effort to rally the MAGA faithful could blow up in his face, escalating the Republican civil war that began last year over his agreement to a $1.2 trillion government funding deal that had even some Democrats voting against it. Greene moved to remove Johnson from his post – a move unlikely to remove him, revealing her disdain for the deal. As November’s presidential election and the party’s battle for control of Congress draw closer, Greene’s stunt increased the pressure on the GOP and cast a pall over party unity. A number of House conservatives agree with her complaints about Johnson’s perceived reliance on Democratic votes to pass spending bills – although they’re not going as far as supporting her attempts to force him out of office.


Speaker Johnson's Race Against Time: The Urgency of Aid to Ukraine

On Apr 18, 2024, Politico reported that Speaker Mike Johnson's abrupt push to provide aid to Ukraine coincided with recent intelligence reports depicting the U.S. ally facing a critical juncture in its conflict with Russia. This dire assessment mirrored the warnings President Joe Biden and the White House had been conveying to Johnson for months, emphasizing the urgency of the situation. Speaker Johnson is being forced to seek Democratic support to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.


For Greene, who previously backed Johnson's speakership bid, the rift underscores a broader dissatisfaction among right-leaning members with any attempt to compromise with Democrats, even if it means shutting down the government and crashing the economy.


The House GOP is in turmoil. Speaker Mike Johnson's unveiling of a comprehensive aid package to bolster support for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan has ignited anger from Marjorie Taylor Greene and other far-right members of Congress. The proposal is divided into four parts and includes measures to provide substantial assistance to the aforementioned countries, coupled with efforts to seize Russian assets, impose sanctions on Iran, and address security concerns along the U.S. border. With his decision to introduce a separate border security measure alongside the aid bills, Speaker Johnson aims to appease conservatives concerned about foreign policy. Despite the speaker's efforts to rally support, opposition from within his own party looms large, with some members, including House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good and Rep. Chip Roy, vehemently opposing the bills' advancement, citing concerns over the allocation of funds and the perceived neglect of border security issues.


Speaker Johnson finds himself at a pivotal juncture, where the fate of the aid package and his political capital hangs in a precarious balance. Amid escalating calls for his removal from the Freedom Caucus, Johnson confronts a complex landscape of conflicting interests. Walking a tightrope, he endeavors to court Democrats while safeguarding party cohesion, encapsulating the formidable challenges of governance in an era marked by deep partisan divides. As the clock ticks towards the final passage, all eyes are trained on Johnson, as he grapples with the intricate dynamics of congressional politics, racing against time to uphold his commitments before the looming recess.


The Isolationist Convictions of Marjorie Taylor Greene

Marjorie's faith is a unique tapestry of feigned religious convictions, woven with threads of conspiracy, suspicion of anything foreign, and a strong sense of purpose. This blend is typical of the average evangelical MAGA follower.


One example is a recent video of Marjorie Taylor Greene doing CrossFit to Christian rock music. Straining to her epic rock playlist, MTG pumped iron with the fervor of a Valkyrie, special effects creating a colorful lightshow pulsing around her like a dubious aura. Meant to evoke divinely charged power, the effect looked suspiciously like a noxious gas cloud to her online critics.  Between the wildly flailing limbs, the off-kilter pull-ups, and the comical body tremors, Greene's video served as comical fodder for her critics. This highlights the gap between how Marjorie sees herself and how she's perceived by others.


Rep. Greene is undeterred by her detractors. She views herself as on a righteous mission, divinely guided. This sense of calling grants her unwavering confidence, which can be both inspiring to her fellow Trump supporters and off-putting to almost everyone else. While some might find her beliefs strange, Marjorie sees herself as chosen, carrying out God's will in a world she perceives as needing divine intervention. Greene is a whirlwind of certainty, a human exclamation point with an ever-present phone clutched in her hand. Her pronouncements, on everything from her opposition to abortion healthcare to her isolationist foreign policy views, echo through the halls of Congress with the unshakeable conviction of a seasoned televangelist. Inhibitions and decorum are foreign concepts to Rep. Greene, her filter sacrificed at the alter of online engagement. Rep. Green is part of a new group of House members who are more interested in being a social media stars than the actual job of legislating. This group, which includes Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Rep. Massie, is united by a shared mediocrity and an inflated sense of online importance. They are social media’s court jesters, blissfully unaware that their reign may be one of likes and not of respect.


On April 18, 2024, Punchbowl News reported that Speaker Johnson and the GOP leadership were in talks to amend the rule that allows any member of Congress to file a motion to vacate the chair, which sets in motion a vote for a new Speaker of the House. Traditionally, this was a procedure only used by party leaders, but Kevin McCarthy had adjusted the rule in exchange for votes to be Speaker. This adjustment ironically elevated Kevin McCarthy to Speaker and ultimately cost him his job. Ultimately, Speaker Johnson announced that he would not push for the rule change. While Rep. Greene has filed a motion to vacate, she has not yet pushed for a vote.


Mike Garcia's Shifting Stance: Defense Industry, Ukraine Aid, and Russian Disinformation

Rep. Mike Garcia, who had only been in Congress for a few years, was largely untested in this new airspace. His dark hair, thinning at the temples like a dissipating contrail, seemed a fitting metaphor. His small frame, built for the tight confines of a fighter jet, is oddly adrift in the expansive halls and conference rooms on Capitol Hill.


In October and November 2024, the Kremlin continued to spread false information about corruption in the Ukrainian government. Certain members of Congress repeated those rumors. A study by Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren of Clemson University found that Russia was putting out disinformation about Ukrainian corruption through a site called DC Weekly. The biggest lie that was being pushed was that Ukrainian President Zelensky used U.S. taxpayer dollars to purchase two yachts. Another lie was that Congress was planning on cutting Social Security and sending that money to Ukraine.


“There are people who would cut Social Security, throw our grandparents into poverty. Why? So that one of Zelenskyy’s ministers can buy a bigger yacht?” Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) told former Trump aide Steve Bannon on his podcast. “Kiss my ass, Steve. It’s not happening.”


While he did not explicitly repeat the biggest pieces of Russian misinformation like Sen. J.D. Vance, Mike Garcia’s actions spoke volumes. Suddenly, Garcia was concerned about “accountability” and “transparency” of the money that was being sent to Ukraine from the U.S. government. In October 2023, Garcia released a memorandum that declared the Biden administration wasn’t being forthright about financial assistance to Ukraine and that maybe the war might be a lost cause. The newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson joined Garcia in criticizing the Biden administration.


“We have a group of colleagues here in the House, led by Mike Garcia, a brilliant legislator, and a Top Gun pilot, and some of our veterans have gotten together,” Speaker Johnson told Fox News. “Crenshaw’s involved in this and others. They came up with a document that presents 12 critical questions for the White House to answer as our condition of supplying additional support… I delivered it myself.”


Mike Garcia’s memorandum, titled “Addressing the Ukraine Funding Debate: An Urgent Need for a Path to Victory, Transparency, Accountability, and a Sustainable Peace”, was intended to be a bold statement. The cover, a vibrant Navy blue, screamed for attention. Across the front, was a headshot of Mike Garcia himself, his hair thinning, lips pursed, and a determined glint in his eye.


Inside, the memo unfolded like a carefully crafted sales pitch.  Charts and graphs, rendered in a palette of reds, blues and grays, detailed total expenditures on Ukrainian assistance. Rep. Garcia was attempting to thread a needle; he wanted to laud the success of the equipment and ammunition provided by the defense industry that he was once a part of, while also arguing that Ukraine was a stalemate and probably not worthy of further investment.


“This budget footprint would be much more affordable and would yield a victory much sooner,” Garcia wrote. “If we continue to blend and dilute the military aid with humanitarian aid, we are not supporting a victory, we are enabling a dependency on American taxpayers and a tie on the battlefield. We would yield a costly and unaffordable stalemate that has no perceivable exit criteria nor clearly defined “win strategy.” Before I delineate the key questions that the White House and Secretary of Defense must address before we should be willing to support future investment into Ukraine, I think it’s important to highlight key strategic mistakes and blunders to date.”


Rep. Mike Garcia’s memorandum was influenced by the “America First” isolationist views on foreign policy espoused by Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Rep. Mike Garcia’s argument was that the Biden administration was too hesitant to give Ukraine the capabilities to achieve an “overwhelming” victory by pushing the Russians out. Garcia argued that the ware had become a “stalemate”, and Russia is does not give up easily. Because of these facts, Garcia argued that we should stop military funding to Ukraine altogether, essentially ceding Ukraine to Putin.


“The Biden administration prioritizes an unfounded sensitivity to escalating the conflict rather than enabling an overwhelming win for Ukraine,” Garcia wrote. “Several weapon systems that could have been ‘game changers’ on the battlefield were not supplied to Ukraine due to a fear that providing such systems would escalate tensions with Russia.”


Garcia was referring to weapons systems such as the Patriot Missile System, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Sherman tanks, and F-16 fighter jets, all of which would have been useless on the battlefield without personnel with the proper training to proficiently operate those weapons. Military training can take months and even years before warfighters can effectively use weapons systems. Garcia did not provide a timeline to illustrate how the Biden administration could have deployed the weapons systems to Ukraine in time to be effective on the battlefield.


Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) tracked financial data of Ukraine aid that answered most of Mike Garcia’s concerns on accountability of financial resources. The aid approved by Congress for Ukraine relief since the invasion includes nearly 90% is spent on industry located in the United States. This includes jobs located in San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and Antelope Valley, which is Rep. Garcia’s district.


As the clock ticks towards critical votes, Speaker Johnson may be sacrificing his job to provide critical aid to Ukraine. Johnson, once led by Rep. Garcia and others to oppose Ukraine aid, has done an about-face. A sliver of hope remains, but it's faint. Mike carries the burden of past inaction, aware that his choices now will decide the fate of Ukraine and U.S. interests in Europe.