Jul 21, 2024  |  
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Alex Miller

NextImg:Zelenskyy’s SOS to Congress: Send more money for war effort

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed the importance of the stalled Senate foreign aid package in rebuilding his country’s arsenal as it battles Russia.

While the Senate this week passed a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, has refused to bring it to the lower chamber for a vote. 

Mr. Johnson said he won’t consider the package because it lacks stiff security measures to stem the flood of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. A previous Senate deal married border policy with Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid, but outraged many Republicans with its amnesty aspects.

“We are counting on this positive decision of the Congress,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “For us, this package is vital. We do not currently look into alternatives because we’re counting on the United States as our … strategic partner — that this partner will remain a strategic partner.” 

Mr. Zelenskyy’s made his remarks alongside Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. 

Ms. Harris said Friday’s death of Alexei Navalny, who was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top political foe, was a vital reminder of why the U.S. must keep supporting Ukraine.

She said there’s no room for the “political gamesmanship” miring the passage of Ukraine aid and that many congressmen would vote for the package if given the chance. 

“There is only Plan A, which is to ensure that Ukraine receives what it needs,” Ms. Harris said. “I will emphasize … that there is bipartisan support in both of our houses of Congress, on the Senate side and the House of Representatives.”  

She continued, “It is my full belief that were the supplemental package and security package to make it to the floor of the House of Representatives, that it would actually pass.”

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Zelenskyy warned allies that an “artificial deficit” of weapons could give Russia more breathing room. That comes on the heels of Ukraine’s retreat from the eastern city of Avdiivka. 

Ukrainian troops battled Russian forces in the city for four months, but are withdrawing to avoid being encircled. Mr. Zelenskyy said the withdrawal was the right call since his forces are waiting for long-range weapons. 

“Dear friends, unfortunately keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “The self-weakening of democracy over time undermines our joint results.”

Meanwhile, centrist lawmakers have sought to subvert Mr. Johnson’s blockage on foreign aid spending with a pared-down aid package. Despite including former President Donald Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy and a lower, $66 billion price tag, the bill has no guarantee from the speaker that it could come to the floor for a vote. 

A little-used procedure called a discharge petition, which forces a vote on legislation with approval from leadership, has been floated to bring both aid packages to the floor but probably won’t get support from Republicans in the House. 

Meanwhile, foreign aid spending won’t be at the forefront of Congress’ agenda when it returns from recess this month. Lawmakers will have a handful of days to beat yet another deadline to fund the government on March 1, with a second one coming on March 8.

House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said on Friday that finishing appropriations work would come first.

That timeline also runs headlong into a possible April counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces.

• Alex Miller can be reached at