Congress is taking a tough stance with Zelenskyy, insisting on transparency and a clear strategy to secure additional aid from the United States.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a lukewarm response from the House when he requested billions of dollars in new U.S. assistance. This request has faced obstacles due to a few staunch fiscal conservatives within the Republican party, causing difficulties in passing a government spending bill.
Mr. Zelenskyy’s high-stakes visit to Washington on Thursday found a much warmer welcome in the Senate and later at the White House, where President Biden affirmed the U.S. commitment to helping the country fend off Russia and prepared to announce new military assistance to help the country harden its defenses.
However, the $24 billion spending package put forward by Mr. Biden, which Mr. Zelenskyy is eagerly seeking to obtain from the U.S. in order to combat Russian invaders, cannot be enacted unless it is approved by the House. As of now, it has encountered obstacles and has not made progress.
On Thursday, the funding for the war in Ukraine became a contentious issue for the House GOP as they faced difficulties in passing any spending legislation before the September 30 deadline.
Kevin McCarthy, a Republican representative from California, put forward a proposition regarding defense spending in 2024. The majority of the GOP anticipated that this proposal would be approved by the House on Thursday, consequently facilitating the passage of a temporary bill for the government’s overall funding.
However, when Mr. Zelenskyy departed from the Capitol to attend his meeting at the White House on Thursday afternoon, a few Republicans seized the opportunity to obstruct the defense bill due to its inclusion of a modest $300 million funding package for Ukraine. This obstruction was made possible by the party’s narrow majority.
“I have recently cast a ‘no’ vote on the Defense bill due to their refusal to remove the allocated funds for Ukraine’s war and create a separate bill for it,” stated Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia. She highlighted the results of polls indicating that over half of Americans and almost three-quarters of Republicans share her belief that funding for the war in Ukraine should be ceased.”
Mr. Zelenskyy’s welcome in the House was much colder compared to his previous visit in late December, where he received enthusiastic applause from both sides of the aisle during his speech to a joint session of Congress.
Mr. Zelenskyy requested to give another speech together during his visit to Congress this week. The Senate, which is led by Democrats, agreed to the request. However, Mr. McCarthy declined the invitation.
“I cannot reword”
There is resistance to providing funds for Ukraine due to concerns from the public, especially Republican voters, about the U.S. involvement in the war.
Former President Donald Trump, who was widely considered as the frontrunner in the GOP primary, has openly expressed his disapproval of providing more funds for ongoing wars, such as the one in Ukraine.
Since February 2022, Ukraine has been invaded by Russia and, as a result, the United States has offered the country $114 billion in aid through four separate rounds.
An increasing number of Republican legislators are now seeking to halt U.S. assistance for the war until both Mr. Zelenskyy and the Biden administration can present a detailed report on the funds and a strategy for resolving the conflict.
“This week, Mr. McCarthy questioned the lack of accountability regarding the money we have already spent.”
A group of 28 Republicans from the House and Senate wrote to the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, announcing their opposition to the $24 billion request for Ukraine aid. They demanded details about how the money was sent so far, and an explanation of the administration’s strategy to win the war or wind down U.S. involvement.
After a classified briefing on the Ukraine war, Sen. J.D. Vance, a Republican from Ohio, penned a letter expressing his concerns. He highlighted that it had become evident that the United States was being requested to finance an ongoing conflict without any limitations on resources.
Mr. Zelenskyy met with a group of House lawmakers Thursday and was then escorted to the Senate, notably, without Mr. McCarthy, who aides said was tied up gaveling in the House.
Both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, greeted Mr. Zelenskyy. They both express their support for Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, advocating for strong and consistent assistance from the United States.
Like other Republicans who support U.S. aid for the war, they see Russia’s encroachment in Ukraine as a broader threat to Europe and the U.S.
Mr. McConnell, who has received backlash for his backing of Ukraine funding, stated that the funds are not a form of “charity” but rather a “strategic investment in our own benefit.”
Approximately 70 senators convened with Mr. Zelenskyy in the Old Senate Chamber, an esteemed space designated for noteworthy occasions and important guests.
Subsequently, politicians from both sides commended Mr. Zelenskyy and reiterated his plea for the United States to persist in offering financial support to counter Russia.
“I cannot reword”
Following the discussion with Mr. Zelenskyy, Mr. Schumer reiterated the cautionary message conveyed by the Ukrainian leader to the senators.
“According to Mr. Schumer, Mr. Zelenskyy stated that without receiving the aid, the war would be lost.”