Zelenskyy to ask for more Ukraine aid amid congressional budget battle
It will be the second visit to the U.S. for Mr. Zelenskyy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But unlike his first trip when he delivered remarks last December to a joint session of Congress, the Ukrainian leader now faces a more cynical body of legislators.
On his last trip to Capitol Hill, House Democrats still had control of the chamber and were more agreeable about supporting the Ukraine war effort. Polls now show a majority of Americans oppose more U.S. aid to Ukraine.
Mr. Zelenskyy will make his new appeal to U.S. lawmakers for continued aid behind closed doors after meeting with President Biden. On Tuesday, he addressed the United Nations in New York, telling world leaders, “It takes our unity to make sure that [such] aggression will not [happen] again.”
The Ukrainian leader faces a taller task with the GOP in control of the House and mired in a spending battle within its conference.
The U.S. has supplied about one-third of weapons to the Ukrainian military, and since the invasion, Congress has signed off on about $43 billion in funding. The White House has now requested an additional $24 billion for Ukraine aid from Congress.
However, more GOP members in both chambers are questioning the amount of money being sent to Ukraine, while others are flat-out saying the funding should stop.
The debate on whether to send more U.S. dollars to Ukraine is stalling the passage of a stop-gap spending measure, which House conservatives are standing against if the provision is not clean. The measure is intended to keep the federal government open beyond Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Rep. Ralph Norman, South Carolina Republican, said GOP leadership wants to put a closed rule on any Ukraine funding measure, which would effectively eliminate the opportunity to consider amendments to the provision other than those reported by the committee.
“It was in the Department of Defense bill for training for the troops. And I think the number was $300 million. The bottom line is they don’t have the votes,” said Mr. Norman, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “Ukraine is one of the reasons.”
Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are taking issue with continuing the war aid to Ukraine.
“I’m opposed to additional funding for Ukraine. We need to say to the Europeans, ‘You guys have to take the lead in Europe,’” Mr. Hawley said. “‘We will take the lead in the Pacific.’ I’ve been saying this since before the invasion of Ukraine.”
“I think Congress should hold the Biden administration accountable,” he said.
However, other Republicans in both chambers who are still supportive of giving further aid want to see where the money is being spent.
“The overwhelming majority of Congress supports the effort in Ukraine, both Republicans and Democrats. And while I agree there needs to be accountability. There needs to be transparency, it can’t be endless,” Rep. Mike Lawler, New York Republican, told The Washington Times.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told reporters that he recognizes there are divisions among the conference when it comes to funding Ukraine‘s war effort.
“I support the Ukrainians defending themselves, but I want to see how much money we appropriated before — what the spend down is, and what the need actually is,” he told reporters. “My biggest concern is that the Biden administration is simply not supplying the weapons that they need in order to be successful on a timely basis.”
Some Senate Republicans said last week that they were ready to add money for Ukraine to the stopgap spending measure that needs to pass by Sept. 30 to avert a government shutdown.
House conservatives and moderates, though, over the weekend, came to a deal on a short-term provision that would not include money for Ukraine.
When asked if he thought Ukraine spending should be attached to any short-term spending bill, Mr. Cornyn said, “We don’t need it to be any more complicated.”