Politics

Volodymyr Zelenskyy made the case on Capitol Hill for additional U.S. aid to Ukraine. But skeptics appeared unmoved.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Capitol Hill on Thursday seeking more U.S. assistance for the war against Russia — but his full-court press showed no signs of significantly shrinking resistance to further aid among a large bloc of Republicans.

After meetings with both House members and senators, Zelenskyy did not take questions on what — if any — commitments he secured from Speaker Kevin McCarthy on aid for his defense against Russia, or other subjects. Inside Zelenskyy’s huddle with senators, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Ukrainian leader received two standing ovations from those gathered to hear his plea for the $24 billion in additional assistance requested by President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We said to him at the very beginning of this war — which was, ‘Be strong and be united.’ He said, ‘I ask you to do the same,’,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said after the meeting.

As the Ukrainian leader arrived, a group of 28 congressional Republicans released a letter reiterating that they oppose further aid to the country’s defense against Russian aggression. It’s a far cry for the raucous and warm reception Zelenskyy got during his joint session to Congress in December, before the GOP took power in the House.

Critics of further Ukraine aid left the meeting saying Zelenskyy made a passionate case but that they were unmoved.

“His comment was, ‘It’s a totally frozen conflict,’” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an aid opponent who attended the meeting, told POLITICO. “And I think his other comment was ‘Everything depends on the United States.’ Sounds more and more sort of like Vietnam in the day to me, if I’m going to be honest. So what he said was basically a recipe for just shy of needing to land American troops.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the visit provided an opportunity for senators to get answers to lingering questions and that Zelenskyy ultimately “made a good case.”

But asked if that case was good enough to win over skeptics within his conference, Cornyn replied, “Some of the skeptics weren’t there.”

Backers of further aid said following the meeting they thought Congress would ultimately come through for Ukraine — even as they acknowledged deep divisions within GOP ranks.

“They need it, and they’re gonna get it,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said of Ukraine aid following a House-side meeting with Zelenskyy. “The majority of the majority support this. I know there’s some dissension on both sides.”

Zelenskyy entered the House confab with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries at his side. Several dozen lawmakers there first convened in a modest room off a side first-floor hallway — far from the formal setting that senators used for their sitdown.

McCaul said that inside the room, McCarthy asked Zelenskyy on accountability for the money already spent, a plan for victory and about the speed of deploying further weapons in the conflict. The Texas Republican said he’d push for the inclusion of F-16’s and long-range missiles for Ukraine in future government funding measures.

McCarthy told reporters that Zelenskyy answered many of his questions during the meeting, which he described as good, but confirmed later that his current plans for a stopgap government funding bill doesn’t include Ukraine aid. He also said he denied a request for a joint address to Congress with Zelenskyy because of the House’s tight schedule.

White House aides have long noted that American public support for Ukraine tends to increase after a Zelenskyy visit and plan to have the president attempt to capitalize on the current moment. The timing has turned out to be ideal, the West Wing believes, at the start of a government funding battle with Republicans who have called for slashing money being sent to the war zone.

“There was a single sentence that summed it all up — and I’m quoting him verbatim. Mr. Zelenskyy said, ‘If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war,’” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said following his chamber’s meeting.

Schumer declined to answer whether GOP senators pushed back.

After Zelenskyy makes his trip to the Hill, the president will meet him at the White House, offering a grand welcome at the South Portico. The two men and their senior advisors will then conduct a series of meetings — and potentially field a few questions from reporters — over the course of the afternoon, according to White House aides.

Biden has repeatedly declared that the United States would stand with Kyiv for “as long as it takes” to repel Russia’s invasion. Yet despite those public proclamations, the White House has long quietly telegraphed to the Ukrainians that the pace of aid would inevitably slow down, particularly once Republicans took power in the House and the presidential election approached.

But the White House is hoping to secure one more substantial tranche of funding before year’s end. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately indicated to Senate Democrats and Biden’s team that they should try to secure as much money as possible for Zelenskyy now because it will only get more difficult in the months ahead, according to two aides familiar with his comments.

More U.S. military equipment for Ukraine was expected to be announced during Zelenskyy’s visit but would likely not include the long-range ATACMS missile system desired by Kyiv, the aides said. Those missiles could, though, still be included in a later package.

Daniella Diaz contributed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Capitol Hill on Thursday seeking more U.S. assistance for the war against Russia — but his full-court press showed no signs of significantly shrinking resistance to further aid among a large bloc of Republicans.
After meetings with both House members and senators, Zelenskyy did not take questions on what — if any — commitments he secured from Speaker Kevin McCarthy on aid for his defense against Russia, or other subjects. Inside Zelenskyy’s huddle with senators, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Ukrainian leader received two standing ovations from those gathered to hear his plea for the $24 billion in additional assistance requested by President Joe Biden’s administration.
“We said to him at the very beginning of this war — which was, ‘Be strong and be united.’ He said, ‘I ask you to do the same,’,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said after the meeting.
As the Ukrainian leader arrived, a group of 28 congressional Republicans released a letter reiterating that they oppose further aid to the country’s defense against Russian aggression. It’s a far cry for the raucous and warm reception Zelenskyy got during his joint session to Congress in December, before the GOP took power in the House.
Critics of further Ukraine aid left the meeting saying Zelenskyy made a passionate case but that they were unmoved.
“His comment was, ‘It’s a totally frozen conflict,’” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an aid opponent who attended the meeting, told POLITICO. “And I think his other comment was ‘Everything depends on the United States.’ Sounds more and more sort of like Vietnam in the day to me, if I’m going to be honest. So what he said was basically a recipe for just shy of needing to land American troops.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the visit provided an opportunity for senators to get answers to lingering questions and that Zelenskyy ultimately “made a good case.”
But asked if that case was good enough to win over skeptics within his conference, Cornyn replied, “Some of the skeptics weren’t there.”
Backers of further aid said following the meeting they thought Congress would ultimately come through for Ukraine — even as they acknowledged deep divisions within GOP ranks.
“They need it, and they’re gonna get it,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said of Ukraine aid following a House-side meeting with Zelenskyy. “The majority of the majority support this. I know there’s some dissension on both sides.”
Zelenskyy entered the House confab with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries at his side. Several dozen lawmakers there first convened in a modest room off a side first-floor hallway — far from the formal setting that senators used for their sitdown.
McCaul said that inside the room, McCarthy asked Zelenskyy on accountability for the money already spent, a plan for victory and about the speed of deploying further weapons in the conflict. The Texas Republican said he’d push for the inclusion of F-16’s and long-range missiles for Ukraine in future government funding measures.
McCarthy told reporters that Zelenskyy answered many of his questions during the meeting, which he described as good, but confirmed later that his current plans for a stopgap government funding bill doesn’t include Ukraine aid. He also said he denied a request for a joint address to Congress with Zelenskyy because of the House’s tight schedule.
White House aides have long noted that American public support for Ukraine tends to increase after a Zelenskyy visit and plan to have the president attempt to capitalize on the current moment. The timing has turned out to be ideal, the West Wing believes, at the start of a government funding battle with Republicans who have called for slashing money being sent to the war zone.
“There was a single sentence that summed it all up — and I’m quoting him verbatim. Mr. Zelenskyy said, ‘If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war,’” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said following his chamber’s meeting.
Schumer declined to answer whether GOP senators pushed back.
After Zelenskyy makes his trip to the Hill, the president will meet him at the White House, offering a grand welcome at the South Portico. The two men and their senior advisors will then conduct a series of meetings — and potentially field a few questions from reporters — over the course of the afternoon, according to White House aides.
Biden has repeatedly declared that the United States would stand with Kyiv for “as long as it takes” to repel Russia’s invasion. Yet despite those public proclamations, the White House has long quietly telegraphed to the Ukrainians that the pace of aid would inevitably slow down, particularly once Republicans took power in the House and the presidential election approached.
But the White House is hoping to secure one more substantial tranche of funding before year’s end. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately indicated to Senate Democrats and Biden’s team that they should try to secure as much money as possible for Zelenskyy now because it will only get more difficult in the months ahead, according to two aides familiar with his comments.
More U.S. military equipment for Ukraine was expected to be announced during Zelenskyy’s visit but would likely not include the long-range ATACMS missile system desired by Kyiv, the aides said. Those missiles could, though, still be included in a later package.
Daniella Diaz contributed.  

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