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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington, DC on Thursday morning to make a renewed pitch for US aid to support his country’s ongoing fight against Russia, with a new round of funding on hold ahead of an impending government shutdown.
Zelenskyy’s itinerary in DC includes a morning on Capitol Hill for bipartisan meetings with lawmakers. Later, the president is expected to meet with US military officials at the Pentagon before meeting with Biden in the Oval Office – the sixth meeting between the two leaders.
Zelensky’s visit came hours after a wave of Russian missile attacks on energy and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine killed at least two people and wounded dozens. Ukrainergo, the grid operator in Ukraine, reported power outages in about 400 towns and cities.
In his Telegram account, Zelenskyy thanked first responders and nodded to anti-missile systems provided by countries like the United States. “More air cover. More sanctions. More support for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines He wrote.
At the Capitol, Zelensky will meet with the House leadership before meeting with the full Senate. He wore his trademark army green outfit, trading his usual t-shirt for a button-up.
New funding for Ukraine tied up in fight over potential shutdown
Since the February 2022 Russian invasion, no country has provided more funding to Ukraine than the United States. Total aid to Ukraine has reached $112 billion, and another round of funding is currently tied up in Congress.
But enthusiasm for sending new funds to Ukraine is faltering among congressional lawmakers and the public as the war enters its 20th month. The much-anticipated counteroffensive that began in June still falls short of Ukraine’s stated goals, with winter only a month or two away.
Biden asked Congress to approve $24 billion in new aid to Ukraine. As Congress nears a month-end deadline to approve new spending or face a government shutdown, there is no clear path to passage of the funding in the short term.
Far-right House Republicans have shown little interest in approving a bill, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership seat could be in jeopardy.
In the long run, future aid packages for Ukraine will become politically difficult to pass.
While Democrats have largely united behind the president in support of more aid, more Republicans have begun to voice their displeasure. Some have expressed concern about the length of the war and Ukraine’s chances of victory. Kentucky Sen. Others, like Rand Paul, oppose financing almost all foreign intervention.
Despite dissenters, a “majority” supports the additional funding, Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the Republican Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters after meeting with Zelenskyy.
Still, he added: “We cannot afford a war. We need a plan for victory, and we need to do it quickly.”
Like Congress, the American public is divided over support for more aid. A CNN poll last month showed that 71% of Republicans oppose the new funding and 62% of Democrats support it.
Zelensky’s visit comes a day after a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York, where he urged the council to expel Russia from permanent membership. “Humanity no longer puts its trust in the UN when it comes to the sovereign borders of nations,” he said.