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Editorial: These two Missouri US reps voted no on Ukraine aid. Are they angling for Trump’s nod?

By The Kansas City Star Editorial Board

Missouri politics, and the race for the state’s U.S. Senate seat, appear to be interfering with America’s support for the people and government of Ukraine.

There is no other easy explanation for Tuesday’s decision by Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long to oppose a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, which continues to battle an illegal Russian invasion.

The bipartisan package passed quickly in the House, by a vote of 368 to 57. It includes funds for weapons, assistance for refugee resettlement, support for Ukraine’s government and other essential programs.

Six of Missouri’s eight U.S. representatives, including Democrats and Republicans, supported the package. When Cori Bush and Sam Graves agree on something, it’s pretty remarkable.

Only Hartzler and Long — both candidates for the GOP Senate nomination — voted no. We’ve reached out by email to both offices, seeking an explanation for the vote.

But it’s easy to conclude both were influenced by the Trumpist fever that infects their party, from top to bottom. Even as horrifying stories and pictures continue to show the suffering in Ukraine, Hartzler and Long bowed to the strange isolationism of the Donald Trump wing of the GOP and voted no.

“You can’t find baby formula in the United States right now but Congress is voting today to send $40 billion to Ukraine,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a tweet Tuesday. “Let’s put America First for a change.”

It’s true that the United States faces a critical shortage of baby formula, a problem the government should be working night and day to solve. But the U.S. can and should walk and chew gum at the same time, no matter how hard that may be for Trump Jr.

Infants in the U.S. aren’t going hungry because of the war in Ukraine.

Helping Ukraine is putting America first. The United States has an overwhelming interest in maintaining a stable, prosperous, free world. That means resisting Russian aggression without the use of U.S. troops or, God forbid, an escalation to a nuclear exchange.

Yes, $40 billion is a lot of money, and we wish both parties in Congress would demonstrate similar enthusiasm for programs helping the poor and middle class. But the Ukrainians have shown enormous skill and courage in resisting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal aggression, and we should do whatever is possible to back them up in the fight.

There was a time Hartzler understood this. “The free world cannot stand by and allow Vladimir Putin to continue to murder innocent people,” she said in March, endorsing an aid package for Ukraine.

Long’s support for Ukraine is more unstable. He voted against helping the nation in March, as well as in May.

(Kansas congressmen Tracey Mann and Ron Estes also voted against the $40 billion aid package, which still needs Senate approval.)

Long has pleaded for a Trump endorsement in the Senate campaign. Hartzler has been less willing to beg for support from the former president, at least until now. Neither should let their Trump appeasement affect their decision-making on the floor of the House.

Ukraine needs and deserves our help. Sadly, two House members from Missouri let ambition interfere with their judgment.

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