ICYMI: Republicans Reject Zelensky Plea for More Aid to Ukraine

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  • Source: Yahoo
  • 02/22/2024
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with leaders in Washington on Tuesday to urgently plead his case for continued U.S. funding for his nation’s war against Russia. It didn’t make much difference, as key Republicans insisted that no Ukraine aid bill would pass unless border changes are included, and that time had run out to reach a deal by year’s end.

Zelensky met with senators at the Capitol for what he described as a “friendly and candid conversation” before sitting down privately with House Speaker Mike Johnson. The Ukrainian leader reportedly invoked Ronald Reagan in arguing that support for his country and its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression was in the vital interest of the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said later that Zelensky’s message was that Ukraine will win the war if more aid is approved, but the contrary is also true — without more aid, Putin will win. “It’s that simple,” Schumer said.

Republicans were unmoved, though. They continued to insist that any additional funding would be contingent on reaching a deal with Democrats on policy changes at the southern border. “Here’s the problem,” Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly told the Ukrainian leader. “It’s got nothing to do with you.”

Johnson told reporters he needed to see more from the Biden administration. “What the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars with no appropriate oversight, no clear strategy to win and none of the answers that I think the American people are owed,” he said. “I have also made very clear from Day 1 that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national security.”

The ongoing fight over a proposed package of roughly $110 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan along with funding for border security has devolved into a partisan blame game. Johnson said Tuesday that House Republicans had already passed their immigration policy bill, H.R. 2, and so the onus was now on the Senate and the White House to step up. Democrats have rejected that bill as extreme and have insisted that they stand ready to compromise if only Republicans would be more reasonable in their demands. “If Republican colleagues want an agreement on the border, they must meet us at the middle,” Schumer said. “They need to show us they are serious. So far, when they just ask for H.R. 2 or something like it, they’re not showing seriousness.”

President Joe Biden said Congress needs to act. “We stand at a real inflection point in history,” he said while meeting with Zelensky in the Oval Office. “Congress needs to pass the supplemental funds” to provide more aid to Ukraine.

Biden told reporters that he had signed another $200 million drawdown of aid already approved by Congress for Ukraine. It may be some time before Congress delivers a fresh round of assistance. Key Republicans have said this week that there isn’t enough time left to get a deal done this year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it would be “practically impossible” for Congress to pass a bill on foreign aid and the border before the holidays.

Schumer pushed back on that idea. He said that he had spoken by phone with Johnson last night to urge him to keep the House in session and allow time for the supplemental deal to come together. “After months of saying the border is a crisis, that we must get something done yesterday, many Republicans now seemingly prefer to go home rather than pass a bill,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “If Republicans are serious about getting something done on the border, then why are so many of them in such a hurry to leave for the winter break? Has the border simply been an excuse to kill funding for Ukraine?”

Johnson reportedly said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” Tuesday morning that, absent an offer from the Senate, he was “not going to have everybody sit here through Christmas twiddling their thumbs.”

The bottom line: Republicans say they won’t budge. A deal before the end of the week appears highly unlikely, though talks continue. Even if Senate negotiators reach an agreement, it’s not completely clear how much House Republican support for Ukraine funding can be swayed given that many in the party have grown skeptical of the war effort.

This article was originally published on Yahoo.