Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington this week to secure billions of dollars more of funding is running into opposition in the U.S. Congress.
Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said the emergency funding wouldn’t gain GOP support unless it includes “real, meaningful border reform”.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, who met with Zelensky on Tuesday told reporters afterward: “I have asked the White House since the day that I was handed the gavel as speaker for clarity. We need clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win. Thus far, their responses have been insufficient.
“What the Biden administration appears to be requesting is billions of additional dollars without proper oversight, lacking a clear winning strategy and devoid of the answers that I believe the American people deserve,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, called the U.S. southern border “an absolute catastrophe”, citing a one-day crossing of 12,000 migrants on Dec 6 and the apprehension of almost 280 “known terrorists”.
He said 7 million people have been encountered at the border since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, with “at least 2 million got-aways”.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday it would be “practically impossible” for Congress to pass a supplemental funding package including aid for Ukraine in its nearly two-year military conflict with Russia before Christmas.
McConnell told reporters that a deal will not happen until Biden reaches agreement with Republicans.
Biden has been calling for a $110.5 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel and for other national security needs.
“It’s great to be at your side, and we will stay by your side,” Biden said to Zelensky as they met in the White House on Tuesday.
At a joint news conference with Zelensky later on Tuesday, Biden said: “Without supplemental funding, we’re rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond in the urgent operational demands that it has.”
Biden has expressed a willingness to engage with Republicans as migrant crossings have hit record highs along the U.S.-Mexico border, but Democrats in his own party oppose proposals for expedited deportations and strict asylum standards.
One chief Republican negotiator, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, said there was nothing Zelensky could say during his visit with the senators to sway the outcome.
“Hey, pay attention to us, but not your own country? No,” Lankford told reporters.
All 49 Senate Republicans blocked a measure last week to provide more aid for Ukraine if it did not include restrictions on immigrations.
At a news conference Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sais Moscow was watching Zelensky’s visit “very attentively”.
“It is important for everyone to understand: The tens of billions of dollars pumped into Ukraine did not help it gain success on the battlefield,” Peskov said.
Of the new package, $61.4 billion would go to Ukraine — with about half to the U.S. Defense Department to replenish weaponry it is supplying, and the other half for humanitarian assistance and to help the Ukrainian government function with emergency responders, public works and other operations.
The package includes another nearly $14 billion for Israel as it fights Hamas and $14 billion for U.S. border security. Additional funds would go for national security needs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. also was preparing to announce another smaller military aid package, according to officials.
That roughly $200 million in weapons and equipment will be taken from Pentagon stocks and include additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), high-speed anti-radiation missiles, anti-armor systems, artillery rounds, missiles, demolition munitions, 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition, generators and other equipment and spare parts, one official said.
Including that latest package, the U.S. now has about $4.4 billion remaining in weapons it can provide from department stockpiles.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans believe that the U.S. is doing too much to support Ukraine, according to a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal, compared with 30 percent in October 2022.