Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News and Observer. February 14, 2024.

Editorial: Thom Tillis defies Trump, tells colleagues to ‘grow a spine’ on Ukraine

Last week we wrote about Sen. Thom Tillis and his disappointing decision to withhold support for the bipartisan border security deal that would have been the biggest change to immigration law in decades.

We asked: “If Tillis is willing to abandon his principles whenever his Republican colleagues leave him standing in the middle of the aisle alone, then what good are they?”

So we were glad to see him take a principled stance this week on a $95.3 billion foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine that has received a lukewarm response at best from much of the Republican party.

Tillis wasn’t quite standing alone, but he was one of just 22 Republican senators who joined Democrats in supporting the legislation, openly defying Donald Trump and other GOP hardliners. Trump spent the weekend voicing his opposition to the aid package and demanded that any foreign aid only be given as a loan, calling unconditional aid “stupid.” Tillis said in remarks from the Senate floor,that the cost of not supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia and Vladimir Putin — as Trump has suggested the U.S. do — is simply too high.

Tillis even went so far as to criticize his Republican colleagues for using the “base” as an excuse for opposing Ukraine aid, saying that any U.S. senator should know what’s at stake if Putin wins.

“Some people around here, if they are really being driven just by the perceptions of their base, they should grow a spine and explain if they think it’s a tough vote. It’s not a tough vote for me,” Tillis said, according to Punchbowl News.

We’ve criticized Tillis in the past for kowtowing to Trump, so good on him for refusing to do so this time around. While we still wish this version of Thom Tillis would’ve shown up last week, we’re glad to see him make an appearance now. It’s exactly the kind of lawmaker we have long wanted Tillis and his fellow Republicans to be: the kind who thinks and acts independently and doesn’t sacrifice principles for political gain.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for North Carolina’s other senator, Ted Budd, who voted against the bill. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Budd said, “I opposed the national security spending package that didn’t include border security. We must secure our own border before we help other countries protect theirs.” (Budd also voted against last week’s bill that did include border security.)

House Republicans seem to be more aligned with Budd than Tillis, however. Tillis told reporters that the bill’s only hope may be for a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans to bypass leadership and sign a discharge petition to pass it. Rep. Dan Bishop, who is running for state attorney general, said in a social media post that House Republicans are “ready” to continue the fight to defeat the bill, and Speaker Mike Johnson has said it will not even receive a vote in the House since it does not include border security measures.

If Republicans are so insistent on pairing Ukraine aid with border security, then why did they torpedo legislation last week that would have done exactly that? The answer seems clear: because Trump said so. That’s a shame. Lawmakers should follow Tillis’ lead and use their position to do what’s right rather than blindly follow their leader.