Opinion: Fleischmann one of only two Tennessee Republicans to get an ‘A’ on support for Ukraine in report card from new coalition

Staff File Photo By Matt Hamilton / U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, speaks during the Memorial Day program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on May 29, 2023.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is one of two Tennessee House members to receive an "A" on a new report card from a coalition called Republicans for Ukraine, which has launched a $1 million campaign to help convince other GOP members to continue supporting the country against its 2022 invasion from Russia.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Clarksville is the other Republican to score an "A." U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport and Andrew Ogles of Columbia all received an "F." The state's three other Republicans drew a "B" or "C."

Republican support for Ukraine has been slipping the longer the war goes on, the more money Democratic President Joe Biden requests for its maintenance and the closer we get to the 2024 presidential election, where the GOP favorite for the nomination, former President Donald Trump, has been lukewarm on his support.

Many supporters of the GOP today weren't alive during the Cold War, which the U.S. fought against the Russia-dominated Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the end of World War II to 1991, when the country collapsed. As such, they have little knowledge of the repression, starvation and murder of the people under Soviet rule during the period.

Today, Vladimir Putin, a man as dangerous and powerful as any USSR dictator, leads Russia and is responsible for the naked aggression found in the invasion last year of an innocent country.

Countering that, though, is Trump, whose America-first tendencies rightly resonated for many voters who were tired of endless wars on terrorism and sending U.S. soldiers to fight wars without specific endgames.

Complicating the problem is that many of the same people believe for good reason that Biden's weakness in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 emboldened Putin to make his aggressive move.

But we believe the invasion of Ukraine rises to a higher level in today's geopolitical stratosphere and that a lessening in support for the war only invites further aggression by Russia and similar advances by a power-hungry China.

Last month, Biden requested an additional $24 billion for Ukraine as part of a larger $40 billion emergency spending package. Support for such a package may become embroiled in the country's overall budget funding, which faces a deadline at the end of the month.

In the meantime, in support for at least the Ukraine part of the package, Republicans for Ukraine has purchased a 30-second ad that will run this week on Fox News, a 30-second ad that will run on the four major Sunday news shows on Sept. 24, mobile billboards outside the district offices of five House GOP leadership members and a 30-second ad that will air nationally on YouTube all month.

The report card shows Fleischmann supported the Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022, opposed three anti-Ukraine amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act and has made pro-Ukraine statements.

Following the February 2022 invasion, the Ooltewah congressman said that "the United States and our allies must do everything possible to strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself through military and financial aid, and ensure that Putin knows that his lawless aggression will not stand."

Prior to the October 2022 address to Congress by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Fleischmann said he "voted for the first funding bill, and I would be open to discussing more funding. If we do not take the necessary steps for Ukraine to protect its nation and sovereignty against Russia, I think the ripple effects will end up costing not only the United States but the world a lot more."

Of the House's 222 Republicans, 82 received an "A" (including Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas) on the coalition's report card, 43 a "B," 8 a "C," 17 a "D" and 72 an "F."

Among the others who received an "F" are Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, all of whom are on the far right fringe of the party.

The three anti-Ukraine amendments on the report card were sponsored by Greene, Gaetz and Tennessee's Ogles. All three amendments would have removed some assistance for Ukraine from the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

While it has been 35 years since President Ronald Reagan was in office, we can't help but think of how the popular Republican railed against the perils of Soviet communism before and after he was elected and how his efforts in office helped bring down what he once called "the evil empire" and usher in — at least for a short period — a measure of freedom for Russia and its people.

Now one of the republics once dominated by the USSR is fighting to keep that freedom. To keep totalitarianism from spreading, this country — with the votes of Fleischmann and others that Republicans for Ukraine hopes to convince — must responsibly assist.