Zelensky Faces Uphill Climb on Capitol Hill for More Ukraine Aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch M
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky faces an uphill climb on Capitol Hill for more Ukraine aid, despite his in-person plea to secure more funding before Congress breaks for the holidays.

The Hill reported that Zelensky met with the Senate on Tuesday morning, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he “made clear and we all made clear that if we lose, Putin wins, and this will be very, very dangerous for the United States.”

Schumer later echoed Zelensky’s comments made at the National Defense University on Monday, that gridlock on Capitol Hill benefited Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Schumer posted on X, “Thank you to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy for coming to speak with the Senate today! Republicans must take his warnings to heart: The one person happy right now about the gridlock in Congress is Putin. Putin is delighted Trump’s border policies are sabotaging aid to Ukraine.”

However, Zelensky’s visit did not seem to shift Republican holdouts on Ukraine aid.

Ukraine aid skeptic Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) left the meeting early with his mind unchanged, according to CNN.

He said Zelensky gave an “update on strategic milestones” in the war effort and had begun to take questions from members when he left, according to CNN.

Zelensky is scheduled to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) next, before heading to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden.

Zelensky is in D.C. to ask Congress to pass $61 billion more for Ukraine, on top of the $113 billion they approved early this year. However, it looks increasingly likely that any more funding for Ukraine will have to wait until next year.

The Biden administration requested the funding as part of a $106 billion package, which includes only $13 billion for securing the border, but Republicans say it does not go far enough, and are calling for a number of reforms to reduce the number of asylum seekers and illegal border crossers, which recently hit 12,000 per day.

Johnson said at a Wall Street Journal event on Monday that Democrats and the White House must agree to some or all of the border-security measures outlined in H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act.

“I understand the necessity of ensuring that Vladimir Putin does not prevail in Ukraine and march through Europe,” Johnson had said at the event Monday.

“And so I will explain to [Zelensky] that while we understand that, I’ve made my position very clear literally since the day I was handed the gavel that we have to take care of our border first, and our country,” he said, according to Punchbowl News.

Even senators who support more Ukraine aid say it must be accompanied with border security reform.

“Our members are pretty dug in. The message coming out of Zelensky’s meeting ought to be ‘We want to help, but we need the Democrats to get serious about the border,’” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told Punchbowl News. “I mean, it’s really that simple right now.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on a Ukraine-border funding deal, told the outlet, “We’ve got to be able to deal with all of these things together. That’s how the package started at the very beginning.”

Even Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a staunch Ukraine aid supporter, called on Democrats to “get the job done.”

“Getting funding for Ukraine is so critical, they ought to do whatever it takes to get the border [fixed],” he told Punchbowl News.

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