Kevin McCarthy rejects Zelensky request to deliver joint address to Congress

That $24 billion would not be the end of funding for Ukraine from the US, but would simply be the next traunch.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declined to platform President Volodymyr Zelensky this week, when he refused to allow the Ukrainian leader to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress. Presiding over the 117th Congress, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a joint session of Congress, during which she and Vice President Kamala Harris raised the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine over the People's House.

Zelensky, who is in the US to state his case for an additional $24 billion in aid and weapons from the US, will meet with President Joe Biden, but the two are not scheduled to hold a joint press conference. Zelensky is also meeting with McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and committee leaders, reports Andrew Desiderio of Punch Bowl News

"Is Zelenskyy elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don't think I have to commit anything and I think I have questions for him,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.

“Where's the accountability on the money we've already spent?" He asked, reiterating what many in his party have said. "What is the plan for victory? I think that's what the American public wants to know."

That $24 billion would not be the end of funding for Ukraine from the US, but would simply be the next traunch. Senator Lindsey Graham backed the ask, saying "If you were in that briefing and you came away believing that what we do in Ukraine doesn’t affect our national security interest in the world, you literally had your ears closed. Those who suggest that we should pull the plug on Ukraine — I will make sure, to my dying day, you own that decision."

Zelensky will meet with the Senate on Thursday, in the Old Senate Chamber. He met with military and intelligence officials, along with Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, on Wednesday, after his visit to the UN in New York. McCarthy declined that same briefing when the Biden administration offered it to the House, though it may happen at a later time.

Republicans in the House staunchly oppose further funding for Ukraine, and have been battling over a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The current CR expires at the end of September. Senator Rand Paul, as well as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have vowed to block new funding for Ukraine. McCarthy does want funding for Ukraine to be included in the CR. 

After Schumer received the briefing, he warned that a CR that did not include further Ukraine funding, or if the government shuts down due to an inability to come to an agreement on a new resolution, "the effect on Ukraine would be very quick and devastating." He further said that "Without aid, Ukraine could run a very strong risk of being defeated."

In the spring, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive against Russia that has not produced the desired results. The US has promised more aid and weapons to help push back the invasion and regain lost territory. Senator Josh Hawley also spoke after the meeting, saying "If there is a path toward something that can be called a victory here, I didn’t hear it."

In the past week, Zelensky fired all six of his defense ministers. This was in an effort to combat corruption. House Republicans, including Greene, have asked for an audit of the money sent to Ukraine since the Russian invasion of that nation in February 2022. The US has sent nearly $44 billion to Ukraine, while the total cost of the war effort is upwards of $150 billion, with funds coming from the US as well as Europe.
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