Sat. May 18th, 2024

How strength training in Washington delivered more brawn for Ukraine

By 37ci3 May13,2024

WASHINGTON — The story is so familiar it’s now a Capitol Hill cliché: Lawmakers from different parties meet in a gym and, amid the clanking of weights, realize they have more in common than not.

But the latest version comes with a geopolitical twist. Bonding in the House gym, the senator and congressman quietly cooperated in making it harder for Russia to swallow Ukraine.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer is a New Jersey Democrat and Harvard Law graduate who once wrote speeches for Bill Clinton.

Senator Markwayne Mullin is an Oklahoma Republican who excelled in the mixed martial arts ring and called Donald Trump. “The most powerful president in my lifetime.”

Nothing suggests they will speak up in the face of institutional pressures conspiring to drive lawmakers apart. But over the years, they began to sweat and talk. Now they cheat on each other and text back and forth about politics and policy. They became friends.

They are hardly the first to notice partisan suspicions melt away in the bench press. Nor should Americans care whether the two lawmakers get along. Also, somewhat coincidentally, a straight line can be drawn between the congressional gymnasium and Ukraine’s strength on the battlefield.

For months, Congress struggled to pass it a major foreign aid package He gave Ukraine the billions of dollars it needed to defeat the Russian army. There was a breakthrough in April, when House Speaker Mike Johnson defied far-right members of the GOP caucus to pass the bill.

Much has been said about it Johnson’s maneuver. Less well known is the discreet role Gottheimer and Mullin played in making the deal happen.

Back in February, Gottheimer was driving snow tubing in New Jersey with his 12-year-old son when his cell phone rang. Mullin and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R., SC, were calling. She pulled up to Dunkin’ Donuts, gave her son a hot chocolate and called.

At the time, US aid to the war effort in Ukraine appeared dead. Trump has a firm grip on Republicans in Congress and his opposition just took a measure it would tie Ukrainian aid to border security.

Lawmakers feared Trump would renegotiate if they tried to revive the package.

“You look at it and you go, one tweet can derail everything,” Gottheimer said. “My biggest concern was that the former president didn’t derail this.”

But Mullin saw an opening. The ex-president gave a sign Truth Social post On February 10, he could have accepted a deal if he had structured it as a loan rather than an outright gift.

“We think there’s a deal here,” Gottheimer recalled the two senators telling him during the call.

Thus began a new round of intense negotiations, with Mullin and Gottheimer working together, playing a role in the event’s progress.

Gottheimer had nothing to do with Trump, but Mullin did. Mullin had no connection to the White House, but Gottheimer did.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had any conversations with the White House,” Mullin said in an interview. “They never reached out. “I don’t know who the person I have contact with the White House is.”

Mullin flew to Mar-a-Lago to speak with Trump and contacted him to make sure the former president didn’t hurt the package. For his part, Gottheimer spoke frequently with senior White House aides and the House Democratic leadership.

Through it all, Gottheimer and Mullin spoke frequently, passing information back and forth about what they were hearing and the state of negotiations, all with the goal of making sure the deal didn’t fall apart.

“Josh and I talked almost every day, even when I didn’t want to talk to him on Sunday,” Mullin said.

“He [Mullin] he was talking to the former president and getting feedback, and I was talking to and with the White House [Democratic] leader Hakeem Jeffries and others are on our side,” Gottheimer said.

The White House shared concerns that Trump could change the deal at any time, a person familiar with the matter said, making Mullen’s role as a Trump whistleblower even more important.

Finally, the final package contained language that pleased Trump. The $10 billion in aid to Ukraine is considered a loan, although the president is free to forgive it starting in 2026.

With that, Trump never opposed the deal, GOP caucuses fell in line, and Biden signed the measure into law. Soon, weapons began to flow into Ukraine.

“When we presented it to President Trump, he was all on board,” Mullin said. “And that was the key. It allowed [House Speaker Mike] Johnson needs to cover up a bit.”

Neither Gottheimer nor Mullin is a household name in American politics. Many voters may have gotten their first look at Mullin in November when he challenged Teamsters President Sean O’Brien. to battle during an intense public hearing.

They never fought; they went to dinner instead. The two met with their aides for two hours at an Italian restaurant in Washington. “President Trump asked me to sit down and talk with him,” Mullin said. The former president “called me and said that you two will get along.” “

“It’s never been personal,” Mullin said. “You get through these things quickly. The last time I fought I got paid to do it. So I wasn’t interested in fighting for free anyway.”

Replicating the Mullin-Gottheimer model of legislation in an election year — or until the partisan fever breaks in Washington — won’t be easy.

It’s a coincidence that this happens at all. Because Mullin and Gottheimer both love working at Home gymthey recognized each other.

“He has a crush on me,” Mullin said. “I had to let him off the hook on this one. I told him that I am not into short boys.

And because they’re friends, they’ve developed a measure of trust that’s essential to getting the Ukraine aid deal that both sides want.

“Every day you spend an hour and a half with someone, you become friends. You bulls—,” Gottheimer said.

“I like the guy,” Mullin said. “He is a piece of work. His ideological views are diametrically opposed to mine on many different fronts. But he is a straight shooter and you can deal with honest people.

Their cooperation is a sign of a bipartisanship that, while barely blooming in Washington, has not completely dried up.

Johnson he kept his job Last week, Democrats, pleased that he was willing to negotiate, stepped in to defeat a bid by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to force him out of office.

With just a 217-213 majority in the House, Johnson has little choice: If he wants to avoid complete paralysis in Congress, he can ignore the other side.

“The supply of people who want to do it [work in bipartisan fashion] has decreased, but the demand has increased significantly,” said Gottheimer.

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By 37ci3

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