WASHINGTON ― Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his third visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to appeal for U.S. aid as his country continues to suffer from deadly Russian bombings ― but he was met with a frosty reception from some members of the Republican Party.
“The idea of flying this guy in last-minute, effectively to badger and guilt-trip us, I just find grotesque,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) told reporters on Monday.
“This is purely designed to apply pressure on Republicans to give up their fight on the border and write another blank check to Ukraine,” Vance later said on Fox News. “I’m not doing it. I don’t think Republicans should go for it at all.”
“He’s been invited here by Joe Biden to come do the president’s bidding,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) claimed in an interview with the Family Research Council. “We don’t need another preaching message. Everything that can be said about Ukraine has been said. Not everybody’s said it, but everything has been said.”
Zelenskyy appealed to members of the Senate behind closed doors to continue to supply military aid to Ukraine. He reiterated that the U.S.’s financial obligations would be even higher in the future if Russian President Vladimir Putin is allowed to redraw the map of Europe.
“His message was simple: We’ve held our own,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said after the meeting. “We can win. We’re going to keep fighting no matter what the United States does, but we need your help to win this thing. And Europe is watching. And the whole world is watching.”
President Joe Biden’s administration has requested $61 billion in new aid to Ukraine, but Republicans have made the aid package contingent on his agreeing to major changes to the nation’s immigration laws and border policies ― changes that Democrats in many cases don’t support. Progressives, in particular, are concerned that the GOP’s demands would effectively ban asylum and punish people legally seeking refuge in the U.S.
The partisan brawl over a controversial issue that has stymied Congress for decades has put into serious jeopardy Biden’s emergency spending package, which includes additional U.S. support for Israel and Taiwan.
“The one person happy right now about the gridlock in Congress is Putin,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a speech on the Senate floor after meeting with Zelenskyy on Tuesday. “Putin is delighted Trump’s border policies are sabotaging aid to Ukraine.”
Schumer also said that he called Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Monday and urged him to keep the House in session next week, to allow for more time for negotiations over the spending bill. The White House has become more involved in the talks over the weekend, after Biden said he is willing to agree to a “significant” compromise on the border to pass the measure.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said there is “solid” support for Ukraine in the Senate GOP conference, and that only a “very small” number of Republican senators oppose continued assistance for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.
“Once we get the southern border issue resolved, there will be at least 70 votes in the Senate for this package,” Rounds said.
But senators on both sides of the aisle remain pessimistic about the chances of a bipartisan deal on immigration coming together before the end of the year, especially with Congress’ holiday recess on the horizon.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator on the border package, said Monday there are still “large areas that are unresolved” and that Congress will likely need to take up the issue in January.
The Stakes Have Never Been Higher
This story originally appeared on HuffPost