Zelenskyy in Washington to make the case for Ukraine aid stuck in congressional limbo

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(WASHINGTON) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet in Washington on Tuesday with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders, a high-stakes visit that the White House said is coming at a “critical time” with additional Ukraine aid being debated on Capitol Hill.

Zelenskyy will sit down with Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson. He and President Biden will also meet at the White House and hold a joint press conference.

“We’re looking forward to this visit,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told reporters on Monday. “It’s a chance for the president to get an update from President Zelenskyy about how things are going on the battlefront but also to make it very clear to President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people that we’re gonna continue to support them, particularly at this very difficult time.”

Billions of dollars requested by the Biden administration to help Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion, as well as to support Israel and Taiwan, are currently in limbo in a battle over immigration policy and the southern border.

Republicans in the Senate are seeking significant changes to asylum and other immigration procedures in exchange for passing the roughly $110 billion supplemental aid package.

Some GOP lawmakers have also become increasingly skeptical of the U.S. continuing to fund Ukraine, despite arguments that it helps weaken Russia, because they think that money could be better spent on domestic issues.

The clock is winding down for both sides to come to a compromise before the holiday recess begins at the end of the week.

“We are running out of resources already in the bank to continue to assist them,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.

McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican and a staunch supporter of Ukraine, on Monday said border provisions remained top of mind for him and his colleagues.

“When it comes to keeping America safe border security is not a side show it is ground zero,” he said. “Senate Republicans have no more spare time to explain this basic reality. We cannot convince anyone who doesn’t want to acknowledge the glaring facts on the ground. The Senate has to act.”

Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, contended in his own remarks that “Republicans and only Republicans are holding everything up because of unrealistic maximalist demands on the border. I want to be very clear: Democrats very much want an agreement if possible.”

Zelenskyy arrived in Washington on Monday to give a speech at the National Defense University. There, he was introduced by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who described America’s security commitment to Ukraine as “unshakeable.”

Zelenskyy, speaking to students, argued that delays in approving Ukraine aid plays into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hands and those of his “sick clique”.

“America and all free nations need to be confident in themselves in their strengths in their leadership so that dictatorships doubt themselves and their power to undermine freedom,” Zelenskyy cautioned. “When the free world hesitates, that’s when dictatorships celebrate, and their most dangerous and vicious rape.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced a $175 million package of military aid to Ukraine under the Presidential Drawdown Authority — a fund that is running dry, which is why the administration is requesting more from Congress.

Kirby told reporters Monday he “fully expects” more security assistance for Ukraine to be announced before the end of the month.

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