WASHINGTON -- Once again, there was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher breaking from most of his congressional colleagues, including fellow Orange County conservatives, to oppose an aid package for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.
"We should not permit ourselves to reignite a Cold War," said Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), who was on the short end of the bipartisan 319-19 roll call Thursday. He was the lone Californian to oppose the measure, urging colleagues not to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Rep. Ed Royce, a fellow Orange County Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged passage of the measure.
"We must target those guilty of aggression against Ukraine and stand by our allies and friends to ensure peace and security in Europe," said Royce, who will be leading a congressional delegation to Ukraine before the May 25 presidential election. The bill's passage, he said, "demonstrates that our words do have meaning and sends a clear message of American resolve that will be heard in Kiev, in Moscow, and around the world."
Rohrabacher told colleagues from the House floor that the people of Crimea "obviously want to be part of Russia. This is not a power grab. This is defending their right for self determination."
The congressman was the only House member to vote "present" on an earlier resolution "condemning the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity by military forces of the Russian Federation."
Most California representatives supported Thursday's measure, but four did not vote: Republicans John Campbell of Irvine and Gary Miller of Rancho Cucamonga and Democrats Mike Honda of San Jose and Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino.
Rohrabacher and Putin have a history. Back in the 1990s, the congressman says, they drunkenly arm-wrestled to settle a debate. "He put me down in a millisecond," Rohrabacher recalled in a recent interview."