The Maine Legislature spent much of Tuesday morning debating a symbolic resolution of support for Ukraine in the country’s ongoing war against Russia.
The resolution states, in part:
RESOLVED: That We, the Members of the One Hundred and Thirty-first Legislature now assembled in the First Regular Session, pause in our deliberations to condemn the egregious, unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine and voice our support for peace, diplomacy and an immediate end to the invasion; and be it further
RESOLVED: That we support the United States Government’s continued security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and imposition of consequences on Russia for its war of aggression; and be it further
RESOLVED: That we encourage the citizens of the State to support Ukrainian Americans and the people of Ukraine in their urgent time of need.
The joint resolution was offered by Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) and co-sponsored by, among others, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) and Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
The resolution states that “the people of Maine recognize that they share democratic values with the people of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy.”
The more than an hour long debate was mostly an intellectual exercise, with various members of the citizen legislature attempting to share their deep geopolitical wisdom with colleagues or else to virtue signal their disdain for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the mass forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, which meets the definition of genocide according to the 1948 genocide convention, exposes the evil hollowness of Russia’s quote one people unquote,” said Millett.
Millett also took the opportunity to speak at length about her own experience working in Ukraine with Peace Corps in the 1990s.
This is the second resolution in support of Ukraine that Millett has brought forward to the Maine legislature.
Some Republicans who opposed the resolution also spoke out, pointing up the meaninglessness of Maine passing symbolic resolutions on international matters.
“We have an obligation to serve the people of Maine,” said Rep. James E. Thorne (R-Carmel).
“We listened to everyone speak hear today when we should be listening to the problems the people in Maine have,” he said.
Other Republicans expressed their concerns with U.S. involvement in the conflict generally.
“Our country is printing billions and billions and billions of dollars to wage a proxy war with Russia,” said Rep. David Boyer (R-Poland).
“We’re stealing from the poorest Americans for the benefit of the military industrial complex,” he said. “We’re paying for Ukrainian pensions. Meanwhile, our own country’s infrastructure is crumbling.”
President Joe Biden himself has said that part of U.S. aid to Ukraine will be used to support the country’s public pension system.
“In spirit, I support the people, but I cannot support continued, unchecked and unbalanced money just going out not accounted for,” said Rep. Jeffrey Adams (R-Lebanon).
“I got a son in the Army, got a son in the Navy, they’re the ones that are going to do the fighting,” he said, warning of future Cold War-style escalations.
Sparks flew when Rep. Dan Sayre (D-Kennebunk) tied those Republicans who opposed the symbolic gesture to anti-Semitic movements of the 1930s.
In response to Sayre’s accusation, Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) made a point of order, and Sayre was advised to refrain from impugning the character and motivations of his colleagues.
The United States has given nearly $80 billion in humanitarian aid and military supplies to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute, a German think tank that has emerged as one of the best resources for tracking international aid flows to Ukraine.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced a bill to Congress that would require the U.S. government to conduct an audit of all the aid given to Ukraine. Although the bill has gathered some support from more mainstream Republicans, it’s unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The resolution ended up passing the House of Representatives 87 to 54. Though the move is entirely symbolic, it will likely be a popular one in many of Maine’s more liberal communities where Ukrainian flags on display appear to outnumber American flags.