Volodymyr Zelensky, Joe Biden make last-ditch appeal for Ukraine aid

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WASHINGTON – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Joe Biden made a final plea to Republicans in Congress on Tuesday to pass an aid package for war-torn Ukraine before the holidays.

“Putin has failed to deliver for America,” Biden said in White House remarks after meeting with Zelensky this afternoon. “We have to prove him wrong.”

Zelensky, making his third trip to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, first met with Democratic and Republican lawmakers before heading to the White House for a day of lobbying. The trip comes amid Republican opposition to approving US aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.

“In Ukraine, we are fighting for our country, for freedom, and for you,” Zelensky said during a White House press conference, adding that Ukraine had “already made significant progress” in liberating half of the territory occupied by Russia since the war began. .

“We have proven that our courage and partnership are stronger than any Russian hostility,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Biden and Zelensky have changed enough Republican positions — or any — to improve the chances of an aid package in Congress. Several Republican lawmakers have said they won’t approve additional funding for Ukraine without significant security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I reiterated to him that we stand with Putin against his brutal invasion,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., told reporters. “Our number one condition in any national defense additional spending package is that our own national security must come first.”

As Russia’s invasion continues, lawmakers are running out of time to pass an aid package. Both houses of Congress are scheduled to leave town for the weekend. The White House has warned that US funding for Ukraine could run out by the end of the year unless action is taken.

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“It’s shocking that we’ve come to this point,” Biden said on Tuesday, referring to the celebration in Russia’s Kremlin-run media last week when Senate Republicans voted to block aid to Ukraine.

“If you’re being celebrated by Russian propagandists, maybe it’s time to rethink what you’re doing,” Biden said. “History will harshly judge those who turn their backs on freedom. Today, Ukraine’s freedom is on the line.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., characterized Zelensky’s meeting with senators as constructive and powerful. He said Zelenskyy outlined to lawmakers the need for aid and how it would help Ukraine win its war against Russia.

“He made it clear, and we all made it clear, that if we lose, Putin wins, which is very dangerous for the United States,” Schumer said.

Earlier this year Biden proposed an initial aid package that included $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and additional funding to Israel and Taiwan. It also includes provisions to strengthen the US-Mexico border, but is insufficient in the eyes of Republicans, who have threatened to withhold support unless the package includes more border security funding.

Johnson calls for ‘transformational change’ at border

Debates over the Ukraine funding bill stalled over the weekend after negotiators failed to reach a deal that included Republican priorities on the aid package.

In the upper chamber, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, released their own plan Last month it would make it harder for migrants to enter the country seeking humanitarian asylum. Those arriving at the U.S. border are only granted asylum and denied entry if they can show that they were stopped in another country between the U.S. and their home country.

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House Republicans passed their own border security proposal earlier this year that would restore construction of the Southwest border wall and slow asylum access. The plan would also require immigrants to demonstrate that they are “more likely” to face persecution in their home than the current standard of facing a “significant likelihood” of danger.

Johnson has vowed not to bring a foreign aid bill through the House if the legislation is not included. He called for a “transformational change” on the border on Tuesday and said he has demanded answers from the Biden administration about transparency in Ukraine aid spending.

“This is not a House issue right now. The issue is with the White House and the Senate, and I urge them to do their jobs because the time is urgent and we want to do the right thing here,” he said.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said Tuesday he doesn’t think Zelenskyy’s visit will change negotiations over Ukraine funding.

“The President knows what he has to do. Secure the border and then we’ll talk. I don’t even know why it’s so difficult,” he said.

His Republican colleague, Chip Roy of Texas, said the border rules were “100% non-negotiable.”

“I don’t give a crap whether you bring in Zelensky or not,” Roy said Tuesday. “Protecting America’s border is your fundamental duty.”

Republican senators questioned Zelensky about the funding

During Zelenskyy’s meeting in the Senate, lawmakers asked the Ukrainian president about accountability, transparency, objectives, timing and impact of increased funding for Ukraine, Sen. Mike Rounds, R.S.T.

“Their country will fight to the end, but if we don’t provide the resources … if we don’t do it, our other allies won’t want to do it either,” Rounds said.

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The South Dakota lawmaker insisted that Zelenskyy was well received by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and that his Republican colleagues would support the funding package after the southern border issue was resolved.

“We’re simply saying the southern border is secure, and this is the way to do it,” he said.

Sen. Rep. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Monday that he understood his Republican colleagues’ concerns about the U.S.’s southern border, but added that “it’s crazy that we’re running out the clock and running out of time, just as Ukraine is going down.” In the winter.”

Will the budget for Ukraine pass in the House?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been a strong supporter of aid to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, but urged his Republican colleagues last week to oppose any vote to advance the supplemental package without “meaningful changes” to border funding.

The Senate is scheduled to recess on Friday, while the House is scheduled to recess on Thursday. Even if the Senate could pass the supplemental package by the end of the year, Johnson is unlikely to bring it to the House floor for a vote before the holiday break.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said Zelenskyy made a strong case for more funding and stressed the country’s need for more resources for senators.

“No one should go home on Thursday,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Riley Beckin and Ken Tran contributed to this report.

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