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GOP advocacy group pressures Kansas’ Estes, Mann to support new Ukrainian aid package


GOP advocacy group pressures Kansas’ Estes, Mann to support new Ukrainian aid package

Sep 20, 2023 | 11:51 am ET
By Tim Carpenter
GOP advocacy group pressures Kansas’ Estes, Mann to support new Ukrainian aid package
U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, the 1st District Republican, received an F grade in terms of his votes and statements related to Ukraine's defense against the Russia invasion. A GOP advocacy organization is lobbying Mann and U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, also a Kansas Republican, to support a new round of U.S. aid to Ukraine. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The organization Republicans for Ukraine issued a report card giving U.S. Reps. Tracey Mann and Ron Estes of Kansas failing grades based primarily on their voting record in Congress tied to sustaining U.S. military, economic and humanitarian support of Ukraine’s war against Russia.

The GOP advocacy group, which is part of Defending Democracy Together, based the evaluation on six factors that included votes on legislation supporting or limiting aid to Ukraine as well as public statements regarding the invasion by Russia. The grade-card message has been reinforced with national advertising  on Fox News and other platforms and is to be highlighted in a 30-second ad during the Republican presidential debate Sept. 27 on Fox Business.

“For just 5% of our annual defense budget, America has helped Ukraine destroy half of Russia’s army and liberate its territory and people. That’s a great return on investment for American national security,” said Gunner Ramer, spokesman for Republicans for Ukraine.

The organization graded only Republicans in the House in terms of their view on funding of the U.S. ally and Eastern European democracy. Republicans for Ukraine doled out 82 A’s, 43 B’s, eight C’s, 17 D’s and 72 F’s.

The lobbying effort coincided with debate in the Republican-led U.S. House on legislation tied to a potential federal government shutdown and a request from President Joe Biden for a $24 billion supplemental aid package to Ukraine. Polling has revealed erosion in support for Ukraine among Republican voters, which has resonated with the chamber’s most conservative members.

Estes and Mann both voted for the initial 2022 bipartisan bill authorizing the U.S. government to provide defense material to Ukraine through a $13.6 billion lend-lease program. Months later, the two GOP House members voted against a $40 billion supplemental aid bill that was approved.

Both of the Kansas lawmakers voted for a House amendment that would have stricken from a bill $300 million in U.S. funding for Ukraine. They voted with their Kansas colleagues against a failed amendment blocking all security assistance to Ukraine, but Mann embraced an unsuccessful amendment preventing extension of the lend-lease initiative.

While Mann and Estes received an F grade for their “very poor” support of Ukraine, the other House Republican from Kansas, Jake LaTurner, earned a B- grade. LaTurner voted for the initial and supplemental funding bills in 2022 and against House amendments designed to curtail aid to Ukraine.

In July, Mann defended his vote for House amendments that would have restricted “unconditional spending to Ukraine” and would have increased oversight of funding devoted to the war. He represents the 1st District stretching from the Colorado border to Lawrence in eastern Kansas.

Estes, of the 4th District centered on Wichita, denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and referred to the military incursion as an “unprovoked and unjust attack on their sovereignty.” Estes also supported economic sanctions against Russia and commended Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Former KGB officer and tyrant Vladimir Putin is disrupting stability in the world for his personal gain without regard to loss of life or even the will of his own people. There must be consequences for such a reckless and dangerous action,” Estes said at that time.

LaTurner, the 2nd District congressman who received the B- grade, responded to the invasion by traveling to the Ukraine border in March 2022. He affirmed support for NATO and Ukraine while condemning the unlawful invasion by Putin.

“The world needs a strong, sturdy and determined America as much as ever before,” LaTurner said at that time. “The United States and our allies must continue to be very clear in our message to the rest of the world: Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and must be held accountable for his unprovoked and evil attack on Ukraine.”

LaTurner said on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion that he was concerned the Biden administration was neglecting domestic priorities while concentrating on the Ukraine-Russia war.

“We can’t care more about Ukraine than we do our own country,” he said. “The White House continues to prioritize Ukraine while leaving American communities behind. It’s unacceptable.”

The U.S. Congress has approved $43 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since outset of Russia’s invasion of the country.