Editorial: Rep. Nick LaLota split from the pack to vote for Ukraine

On Saturday, scores of Republican members of the House of Representatives stared down the pro-Russian wing of their party and voted, along with Democrats, to send billions more dollars in critically needed military aid to Ukraine.

1st District Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) voted “yes” on funding Ukraine’s effort to push Russian forces out of the country. He did the right thing at the right moment in history. His vote will be remembered.

By doing so, Mr. LaLota separated himself from dozens of House Republicans who spout pro-Putin talking points and don’t care about Ukraine’s fate. “A vote in favor of peace through strength should come naturally,” Mr. LaLota said Monday in an email to this newspaper.

After months of turmoil in the House over aid to Ukraine, the tide turned abruptly with Saturday’s vote. A number of news outlets reported that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson received a briefing from CIA director Bill Burns about Ukraine’s dire situation and the consequences of America turning its back on that country and allowing Russia to continue to destroy it.

As one news outlet reported: “The briefing left a lasting impression, and Johnson became increasingly convinced the fate of Western democracy was on his shoulders, sources close to him said.” Another factor that sources say weighed heavily on his decision-making: Johnson’s oldest son was recently accepted into the Naval Academy.

“To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys. My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall. This is a live-fire exercise for me as it is for so many American families,” Mr. Johnson told reporters. “This is not a game; this is not a joke.”

The outcome would likely have been different if Mr. Johnson had not been chosen as speaker after a chaotic selection process. A candidate considered before him, Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, voted no on aid to Ukraine.

Mr. LaLota has watched all this transpire, and when the moment arrived to make a critical vote, he came down on the side of democracy in Ukraine. This is one of those votes many Americans won’t forget. Mr. LaLota came down on the right side.

In his email, he wrote: “The bills we passed on Saturday will help replenish American stockpiles, counter China’s aggression, defeat Putin’s Russia, and support our ally Israel. As a Navy veteran who has served on three overseas deployments, I will always prefer sending bombs and bullets to our allies to defeat a common adversary if it means not having to put American soldiers in harm’s way … Evil must be dealt with head-on.”

He wrote further: “Like Churchill, I understand that peace is achieved through strength. I am a Reagan Republican, and I believe in the principle of peace through strength. My commitment to these principles extends beyond politics; my wife and I named our second daughter Reagan.

“My dedication to our nation’s security is deeply personal. My brother is a Marine Corps sniper who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq. His service, along with mine, underscores the importance of a strong national defense.”

Like Mr. LaLota’s advocacy for turning Plum Island into a national monument, and his vote to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression, are in this community’s — and this country’s — best interests.