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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Foreign aid complex, requires compromises

The Columbian
Published: May 3, 2024, 6:03am

Contrary to the vitriol that is common in these politically divisive times, it is possible for the United States to provide aid to allies and still address domestic issues. Approving assistance for democratic nations does not preclude measures to protect the southern border.

That is assuming, of course, that Congress functions as intended. Infighting among House Republicans has slowed important legislation and created a dysfunctional legislature. But when the process works as intended, we end up with important foreign aid that will help protect U.S. interests and bolster global security — albeit belatedly.

Such is the case with a $95.3 billion aid package signed April 24 by President Joe Biden. Included in that assistance is $61 billion for Ukraine, which for more than two years has been defending itself against an unprovoked invasion by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, voted in favor of the package, which also includes assistance for Israel and Taiwan.

Perez said the legislation will help “prevent escalation into a costly regional conflict involving more of our allies.” She added: “It’s clear Putin won’t stop at Ukraine, and it’s in our own national security interest to stop a terrible precedent of predation by the aggressive, expansionist Russian military state.”

Assisting Ukraine is clearly in the best interests of the United States and global democracy. But the aid package drew criticism from two Republicans who are running against Perez in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.

Joe Kent said: “We can’t secure our own border. We can’t fix our failing bridge. None of our infrastructure is a priority. Our veterans are living on the streets. However, we have $95 billion that we are going to print out of thin air.”

It is understandable that Kent would find fault; challenging an incumbent requires that a challenger define differences between candidates.

But it is notable that former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Kent in the past and who Kent has incorrectly said won the 2020 election, is the one who scuttled a bipartisan border deal. The legislation would have greatly expanded security along the border, but Trump compelled Republicans in Congress to oppose the deal because continued chaos benefits his campaign.

It also is notable that Kent has opposed the current proposal for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, calling the plan an “antifa superhighway.”

Kent’s hypocrisy in criticizing Perez’s vote is palpable.

Meanwhile, Republican challenger Leslie Lewallen criticized a bill earlier introduced by Perez because it combined foreign aid and border security in the same bill. For months, Republicans in Congress delayed Ukraine aid while insisting that border security be included in an aid package. Lewallen might be correct about the best way for Congress to build consensus on touchy subjects, but she would stand in contrast to fellow Republicans if she stands by that position.

The point is that effective governance requires compromise and accommodation and consideration of the gray areas in complex legislation. And compromise means that somebody is going to disagree with each particular decision. Perez is finding that out with criticism from people on the far left for her approval of continued aid to Israel, following that nation’s invasion of Gaza.

Debate over the issues is warranted and criticism is welcome. But in the end, Perez voted in the best interests of the United States and, therefore, the best interests of Southwest Washington.