Oct 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Kinzinger dominates congressional Ukraine discourse

Congress members with the most official public references to "Ukraine", "Russia" and "Putin"
Data: Quorum; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) a foreign policy hawk who is one of his party's staunchest supporters of Ukraine, is also the member of Congress who has discussed the war by far the most.

Why it matters: Kinzinger represents a wing of the GOP increasingly at odds with MAGA-aligned Republicans who want to cut off military aid to Ukraine if they win control of the House.

  • Kinzinger and establishment Republicans mostly serving in the Senate have led the way in urging the Biden administration to speed up and diversify its weapon supplies to Ukraine.
  • But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — whose conference is expected to gain even more Trump-allied members after the midterms — acknowledged this week that Republicans would "refuse to write a blank check to Ukraine" if they retake the majority.

By the numbers: In official press releases, floor statements, newsletters to constituents, tweets, and Facebook posts since February, Kinzinger mentioned "Ukraine," "Russia" and "Putin" a total of 986 times, according to data compiled by Quorum.

  • Others who have talked the most about the war are also among Congress' most vocal Ukraine champions, such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus.
  • All 10 supported the $40 billion Ukraine aid package that passed in May, except one: Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.).

The big picture: Congress' focus on the war has, unsurprisingly, diminished substantially since its explosive outset.

  • The three search terms were mentioned more than 4,986 times in February and 7,865 in March.
  • By contrast, they were invoked just 532 times in September.

What they're saying: Kinzinger, who has gone so far as to participate in pro-Ukraine meme movements on Twitter, told Axios his passion for the issue is because he sees the war as "eerily kind of a 1938 moment."

  • "There's clearly an authoritarian who has tried to set that, look, if you just have an ethnic interest in a country you can take it for no reason," he said.
  • Asked about his colleagues' degrading interest, Kinzinger said, "There's this kind of boredom because it's been a whole eight months. ... People begin to move onto other things or they just look at the political implications."
  • He said of his involvement in the NAFO (short for "North Atlantic Fellas Organization") meme movement: "They've gotten like Russian diplomats kicked off Twitter, because they just get them angry. During the Cold War, the way the resistance used to be anti-government was through sarcasm and stupidity."
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