WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., says his Tuesday vote against a U.S. House resolution on NATO should not be construed as a vote against the military alliance established nearly 70 years ago that now includes 28 European countries and the United States.
"I don't want to pull out of NATO," Gaetz said Wednesday. Gaetz's Northwest Florida district includes a number of military bases.
Gaetz was among 22 House members who voted against House Resolution 676, a bipartisan initiative billed as a means to "reiterate the support of the Congress of the United States for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ... ."
Specifically, the measure, which passed with a 357-22 vote, expresses the "sense of Congress that ... the President shall not withdraw the United States from NATO ... ." The resolution goes on to state that it is U.S. policy "to remain a member in good standing of NATO" and to "reject any efforts to withdraw the United States from NATO, or to indirectly withdraw from NATO by condemning or reducing contributions to NATO structures, activities, or operations, in a manner that creates a de facto withdrawal ... ."
The resolution also expresses a desire to continue to work with NATO countries toward a more balanced sharing of defense costs, and "to support robust United States funding for the European Defense Initiative," a primary source of funding for the U.S. European Command.
President Trump has been a consistent critic of NATO and has pushed for other member nations to contribute more funding to the alliance. Trump also endorsed Gaetz for re-election to the House prior to last year's primary elections, in which Gaetz faced a Republican challenger.
Acknowledging that his concerns are not specifically reflected in the "plain language" of the resolution, Gaetz explained Wednesday that his vote reflected his concern that the proposal's language could conceivably leave the United States alone to fully fund NATO.
Gaetz said he was also reluctant to have the United States, as he reads the resolution, "forced to be lashed" to NATO. And, he added, the resolution's language "reduces our (the United States') leverage" with the alliance.
Gaetz also said there was no political calculation in his vote — in other words, he didn't cast his "no" vote, clearly in line with President Trump's views, while knowing that the resolution was likely to pass anyway.
"I don't think that way," he said, adding that his actions are always tailored "to the best interests of the district."