Tennessee’s two GOP senators were two of the 11 senators who voted May 16 against expediting a floor vote on President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, H.R. 7691, known as the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022—after both Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader A. Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell (R-KY) rejected Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) ’s request for a special inspector general to monitor America’s largesse to the non-NATO country.
Tennessee was the only state in which both U.S. senators voted against the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine.
Sen. William F. “Bill” Hagerty IV (R-TN), who was joined in voting against cloture for the bill by his Volunteer State colleague Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), told The Tennessee Star Report host Michael Patrick Leahy that he is frustrated by President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s prioritizing other countries while he ignores problems at home.
“We need to fix what’s happening here at America first,” the senator said. “We need to be taking our own problems seriously as a nation before we dump $40 billion into protecting the sovereignty of another nation.”
This exchange captures the mood of the conversation:
Hagerty: They are living on a different planet, Michael, and I don’t think they would find my advice anywhere close to the deeds that they’re conducting. I would be telling him to do the exact opposite. In fact, if you just look at Biden’s actions, if you were to only do the opposite of what he’s actually executed, we’d be in far better shape.
Leahy: It sounds like an episode of Seinfeld. Remember when George Costanza, he didn’t have any confidence in his judgment.
Hagerty: I was just thinking the same thing. Just do the opposite of everything that Joe Biden says. If every one of Biden’s policies would be reversed we’d be in far better shape.
Leahy: We’ll just call him President Costanza.
Both Schumer and McConnell had agreed to bring the House bill to the floor with unanimous consent, but Paul was the one objection—unless the bill included the special inspector general. For the two Senate leaders, giving in to the Kentucky senator would open them up to other requests to change the bill, and more importantly, the changed bill would have to go back to the House for a new vote.
Without unanimous consent, Schumer brought a motion to the floor to end debate, or cloture, and thus allow a vote on the floor, which is the motion that passed.
President Donald J. Trump also spoke out against the bill.
“The Democrats are sending another $40 billion to Ukraine, yet America’s parents are struggling to even feed their children,” Trump said. “There is a massive formula shortage, but no one is talking about it—it is a national disgrace. It is unthinkable that in the year 2022, American families are unable to get baby formulas for their children.”
When the House voted 368-57 May 10 to approve the bill, four Tennessee Republican congressmen were nay votes: Rep. Timothy F. Burchett (R-TN-02), Rep. Scott E. DesJarlais (R-TN-04), Rep. Diana L. Harshbarger (R-TN-02), and Rep. John W. Rose (R-TN-06).
Six of the 11 members of the Tennessee delegation to Congress made the America First vote on the Ukraine bill.
Burchett also said he was concerned about priorities, especially when Americans cannot find baby formula. “$40 billion to Ukraine, and we can’t get baby formula? It’s time for Europe to step up.”
Rose said he voted against the bill because it was a misuse of tax dollars and because he did not trust the competence of the Biden administration.
“I support our efforts to assist Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty from Russian aggression; however, the folks of Middle Tennessee that sent me to Washington [entrusted me] to ensure their tax dollars are being spent wisely,” he said.
“After President Biden’s disastrous and deadly Afghanistan withdrawal, I have no confidence in the Biden administration’s ability to tactically disperse $40 billion in aid to Ukraine that we don’t even have an answer for how we’ll pay for it.”
In his The Tennessee Star Report interview Tuesday morning, Hagerty said it was wrong to interpret opposition to the $40 billion Ukraine bill as support for the invaders or lack of support for the Ukrainians.
“Everyone’s got their own reasons, and I’ll let the others articulate their own, but mine is very simple, and this is not that I don’t want to see Ukraine win, that I think that Russia should in any way be supported,” he said. “In fact, it’s the opposite. But the answer for us is quite clear, and it’s right at our back door.”
Hagerty said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a concern, but there is another invasion, which he has witnessed firsthand, going on at the Mexican border.
“We’ve got a collapsing southern border, where I’ve spent time down there just recently, watching a flood of illegal immigration coming across the border. Illegal fentanyl coming in, killing our kids,” he said.
“There’s basically a war being waged on America right here, and the Biden administration’s doing nothing about it,” he said.
Blackburn made the same point in a March tweet when she wrote “Has the situation in Ukraine taught Biden nothing? We need a secure border now.”
Has the situation in Ukraine taught Biden nothing? We need a secure border now.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) March 15, 2022
In addition to ignoring the border, Hagerty said Biden and his administration ignore the connection between the restrictions placed on the American energy sector and the skyrocketing oil prices that are funding Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“When you look at our energy policy, that is the answer to fixing the situation in Ukraine. And that’s turning around America’s energy policy, getting us back to work again with American domestic-produced energy,” he said.
“That would take the overall price of energy down across the world, that would defund Putin’s war machine.”
Listen to the Hagerty interview here:
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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network based in Washington. He is an Army Reserve public affairs NCO and an Iraq War veteran. Send him news tips: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter, TruthSocial & GETTR: @ReporterMcCabe. Peter D’Abrosca contributed to this report.