Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

The Advocate. February 15, 2024.

Editorial: On Ukraine vote, Louisiana’s senators are on the right side of history

Our country’s domestic squabbles are spilling over into foreign affairs to an alarming degree these days. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Congressional debate over helping Ukraine keep up its long fight against Russian aggression.

The stakes and the need are clear, but help for Ukraine has gotten tangled up in border politics, posturing in advance of this year’s presidential election and even a sense of isolationism — or worse, sympathy for the brutal regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin — that we believe remains a minority position among Americans.

There is surely a general weariness of the long struggle too, although if we’re tired of the fight as the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion nears, imagine how those waging the life-and-death struggle for their country feel.

Against this highly charged backdrop, we were pleased to see Louisiana U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy join fewer than half of their fellow Republicans and most Democrats this week to support a new aid package for our allies.

The bill would send a total of $95.3 billion to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. It had support from both Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate. And it recognizes the reality that, as Cassidy put it over the weekend, “Russian troops are trying to hurt us around the world.”

But it faces difficult headwinds in the House, where another Louisianan, Speaker Mike Johnson, has criticized the Senate vote and is not planning to bring the bill to the floor any time soon.

Johnson, maneuvering to manage a narrow majority that includes some of Ukraine’s loudest congressional skeptics, says he’s against the bill because it does not include provisions to toughen enforcement on our nation’s southern border. This comes after he played a major role in killing a separate bill negotiated with Senate leaders of both parties and the White House that gave Republicans much of what they’d been seeking on the border. Former president and current candidate Donald Trump had blasted the bill, which turned out to be the kiss of death among congressional Republicans.

Johnson’s opposition to the current bill appears equally political. And it stands in contrast with the actions of his Louisiana colleagues in the upper chamber, who must know they risk blowback from some of their constituents for acting responsibly.

With their yes votes, Cassidy and Kennedy acknowledged that, for all our internal divisions, the United States remains the world’s indispensable nation, both in terms of resources and moral leadership. They showed that they get that what our country does still matters, to the point where it can shift the very trajectory of the world, as it did during the last century.

Would that all their colleagues in Congress understood that too.