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Biden's plan to send more aid to Ukraine is criticized by voters in Wisconsin

Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron use a forklift to move 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine, April 29, 2022, at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
Alex Brandon
Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron use a forklift to move 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine, April 29, 2022, at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Congress is debating President Joe Biden's plan to send as much as $24 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine for its fight against Russia. But the plan is proving controversial among both liberal and conservative voters in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

About 50 Republicans gathered in a park shelter for a recent Constitution Day picnic in the Milwaukee suburb of Muskego. They stood and sang as a recording of the national anthem was played.

To attendees like Norm Reynolds, patriotism these days includes opposition to sending more aid to Ukraine. He's not alone. Some recent polls indicate a growing number of Republicans want to halt the assistance. Reynolds said the tens of billions of dollars already sent has underfunded some needs here.

"We have veterans to take care of. Being one of these America Firsters, not like in the '20s, but yes, we've got to take care of our home first," Reynolds said.

It's a growing position among Republicans, partly fed by conservative talk media to say they're not isolationist, they just want any spending to happen here in the U.S. Reynolds said he hasn't settled on a presidential candidate for 2024 yet. He'd like to hear more Republican contenders talk about their plans for Ukraine.

At a farmers market in another Milwaukee suburb, Brookfield, Linda Kaul described herself as a political independent, still doing her homework, as she puts it, on a presidential candidate for next year. But Kaul said she has decided it's time for the United States to slow aid to Ukraine and balance the U.S. budget.

"They make me balance my budget every time they take a cut. Taxes go up. I have to pay attention to how I spend, and we are definitely in debt" Kaul said.

But Vietnam veteran Shannon Frakes said he backs more military aid to Ukraine.

"If we don't stop Russia now, they're going to go through all of Europe. My viewpoint, we don't have a choice," Frakes said.

Frakes has voted for Donald Trump in the past, but this election calls himself an independent still searching for a candidate. It would seem Frakes would be the kind of Wisconsinite Trump would need next year if the former president is the GOP nominee.

He only lost the state three years ago by about 20,000 votes. Yet Trump's relationship with Ukraine is complicated. He has said he'd support more aid if the Biden administration releases more information about Hunter Biden's actions in Ukraine. House Republicans have already opened an impeachment inquiry into the president related to his son's business dealings there. But so far, the investigations have not uncovered any evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Meanwhile, President Biden's ongoing support for Ukraine may cost him votes in Wisconsin, too.

A recent ceremony at Milwaukee's lakefront greeted the arrival of The Golden Rule, a restored touring sailboat iconic to the peace movement. Afterwards, Vietnam vet Mark Foreman said he voted for Biden in 2020 but isn't sure he will next year. Foreman said he wants peace talks in Ukraine.

"I don't have to vote for someone, but I will work hard to support those who I believe have their values straight," Foreman said.

National polls show a big majority of Democrats still support President Biden's policies toward Ukraine. But in some states, the president's margin for political error may be slim.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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