Many Americans consider it a positive thing that House Speaker Kevin McCarty refused the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speak at a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday in Washington. McCarthy’s official reason was that the House of Representatives was working on other pressing issues, such as spending bills and avoiding government shutdowns.
The number of Americans who are fed up with spending money we don’t have on a conflict we don’t need is increasing. Zelensky, however, has already made a pitch to Congress members for more American funding and logistical assistance.
Zelenskyy refused to answer questions after his meetings with House members and Senators. He did not reveal what if any, commitments he had received from Kevin McCarthy regarding aid for Russia’s defense or any other subject. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said that during Zelenskyy’s meeting with senators the Ukrainian leader was given two standing ovations by those present.
After the meeting, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said: “We told him, at the beginning of the war, to be strong and united. He asked you to do the exact same thing.”
A group of 28 Republican members of Congress released a letter as the Ukrainian leader arrived. The letter reiterated that they are opposed to further aid for the defense of the country against Russian aggression. Zelenskyy received a much more raucous, warm welcome in his joint session with Congress in December before the GOP gained control of the House.
Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said that the United States must also accept this reality. Discussions Thursday, following the meeting.
“His comment is that it’s a frozen conflict,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. POLITICO spoke to an aid opponent at the meeting. “And his other comment, which I believe was ‘Everything Depends on the United States’ – sounds more and more like Vietnam back in the day to my ears.” What he said is basically a formula for just short of landing American troops.
Some House and Senate Republicans publicly announced their intention to block spending bills that included money for Ukraine. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky, was one of the members who said that he would not let an expedited bill in which Ukraine funding is included move forward in the Senate.
I will oppose any effort to hold the federal government hostage for Ukraine funding. I will not consent to expedited passage of any spending measure that provides any more US aid to Ukraine. https://t.co/lwmmOObO81
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 21, 2023
“Today, I am putting the congressional leadership and [Joe Biden] on notice that I will not allow any attempt to hold federal funding hostage. “I will not consent to the expedited passage of any spending measure which provides any additional US aid to Ukraine,” said he.
In an op-ed that was published on Wednesday, Paul expressed his concerns about what the approval of more aid could do to the nation’s debt. He also voiced his skepticism regarding U.S. interests and strategy in Ukraine.
New developments could make it a foolish errand to hold up any spending bill in protest of Ukraine funding. Politico reports that the Pentagon could separate its Ukraine operations to avoid a shutdown. The Pentagon could continue its operations without being hindered by a potential shutdown.
Chris Sherwood, DOD’s spokesperson, told POLITICO that if lawmakers are unable to agree and government appropriations fall through, DOD will continue to support Ukraine. This was just hours after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley at the Pentagon. Sherwood explained that “Operation Atlantic Resolve” is an excluded activity in the event of a government lapse. This refers to DOD’s response to the Russian invasion. This means that U.S. military activities in the war will continue, including training Ukrainian soldiers with American tactics and equipment as well as sending weapons to Kyiv. Sherwood said that the shutdown might stop these activities as recently as Tuesday.
Zelensky would not have another chance to convince Americans to continue funding his war if he refused to speak to Congress. It appears that, despite the government shutdown, the House has the support necessary to approve additional funding for Ukraine.