A prominent House conservative is calling for a major shift in foreign policy that would end U.S. aid to Ukraine until America’s southern border is secure.
“No more money to secure Ukraine’s border until we secure our own,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said in a keynote speech at the Indiana Republican Party’s recent 2023 State Dinner, prompting a standing ovation.
In an apparently unprecedented move, Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer announced at the party’s Aug. 10 dinner that Banks is the presumptive nominee for U.S. Senate.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Banks elaborated on why he framed border security as more important to address than additional support toward arming Ukraine in its war with Russia.
“The crisis at the border is the number one issue that every group of Republicans who I speak to across the state of Indiana asks about,” Banks said. “Hoosier voters want to know that they’re electing leaders to Congress who are more focused on solving our problems.”
Banks said he believes this is one of the reasons his candidacy for Senate resonates so strongly with Republicans in Indiana and across the United States.
“With me, they know they’re going to get someone who’s focused on solving our own open-border fentanyl epidemic that’s killing a record number of Hoosiers—and is the leading cause of death [in Indiana],” he told The Daily Signal.
The state GOP officially asked the Republican National Committee to support Banks financially in the open Senate primary to replace incumbent Republican Mike Braun, who is running for Indiana governor.
Banks has no major GOP primary opponents, although Eric Benson, John Rust, and Anthony Tibby are also declared candidates. On the Democratic side, Senate candidates in Indiana so far include little-known hopefuls Marc Carmichael, Valerie Lyn McCray, Keith Potts, Marshall Travis, and Aleem Young.
Banks said that placing America’s southern border before Ukraine isn’t just about the dire crisis of illegal immigration, but providing accountability for spending taxpayer dollars.
“At the moment, there is no inspector general” to oversee U.S. aid to Ukraine, the Indiana Republican said.
”There’s no accountability for the flow of money sent to Ukraine,” he said. “With the current administration asking for another supplemental spending bill, we’re talking about well over $100 billion spent on what’s going on in Ukraine.”
Many Americans have soured on the billions of dollars in financial aid and equipment going to the Ukraine-Russia war. According to a recent CNN poll, a majority of Americans no longer support the massive financial aid packages that have become common in Congress.
GOP leadership in the Senate has remained stalwart in promising aid to Ukraine “for a good deal longer.” But Banks said he thinks Republican voters aren’t going to put up with it for much longer and will “demand” better Senate leadership to solve the border crisis.
“Either you’re more focused on what’s going on over there, or you’re more focused on what’s going on at home,” he said. “As [voters] watch our country crumble from within, they’re demanding leaders at all levels that focus on that instead of focusing on what’s going on in Ukraine or around the world.”
Banks said he doesn’t think that only Republicans are increasingly fed up with a lack of attention to domestic issues.
“I think voters at large, not just Republican voters but all voters, are recognizing that America is weaker than it’s ever been in our lifetime,” he told The Daily Signal.
What’s the solution? Banks said it’s an inward focus on “solving the energy crisis, solving the border crisis, solving the onset of the drug crisis, solving the economic issues that we have here at home,” and turning Congress’ attention toward threats posed by China.
Banks made it clear that putting America’s needs first “is an important test for Republicans.”
“We have to be on the side of America first—in restoring and rebuilding America—[and] then we can be the leaders around the globe that America has traditionally been,” he said. “America can’t lead abroad when we’re so weak at home, and Reagan understood that. Trump understood that. There are too many Republicans today who don’t understand that.”
Rebutting a common argument that to not give Ukraine a blank check is to support Russia, Banks pointed out that he favored “lethal aid to Ukraine” when Donald Trump was president and accountability measures were in place. And, he noted, he has been sanctioned by Russia.
“I’ve been sanctioned by them for my ‘tough on Russia’ record,” Banks said. “I stood with President Trump when he reversed the weak policies of the Obama administration to give lethal aid to Ukraine instead of Obama’s only sending humanitarian aid in blankets.”
The call to put Americans first might be Republicans’ most effective campaign strategy, Banks said.
“It’s clear if we keep our focus on putting their interests first, then the Republican Party is going to have a bigger election in 2024 than I think what most people are predicting today,” he said.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.
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