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Why the Zelensky Jaunt in DC Failed

Ukraine’s president's expectations of meeting a generous US Congress withered.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky came tin-cupping to Washington Dec. 12, landing in the middle of a donnybrook between the Biden administration and congressional leaders skeptical about more funding for Kyiv. Call it bad timing. Call it a sea change in Congress’ appetite to cough up more taxpayer dollars for what seems to be a stalemate in Ukraine’s battle to secure its border against the invading Russian army. Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s homeland security policy has produced its own issues on the US southern border.

Wherever the blame falls, the Ukrainian president was disappointed. Biden’s bumper sticker sloganeering “as long as it takes” support for the Kyiv government is no substitute for a practicable end to the fighting and a strategy to get there. “And what I’ve told the White House and I reiterated to President Zelensky today, we have to have some clarity. We’ve been asking the White House for a clear strategy that will allow Ukraine to prevail in this conflict, and they’ve not provided satisfactory answers,” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-AL) told Fox News’ Bret Baier.

Zelensky Hits Brick Wall on Funding Request

GettyImages-1852836851 Joe Biden

Joe Biden (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ukraine funding hit a speedbump when the Biden administration tried to slip a $105 billion omnibus supplemental spending package through Congress containing $61.4 billion for Ukraine, $14.3 billion for Israel, and $13.6 billion for US border security. Republicans in Congress want the funding split into individual bills to vote on each request separately based on its merit. Biden’s support for the southern border has no money for a border wall and no reform in the way asylum seekers are vetted before being allowed into the country. The White House is unwilling to negotiate and has been intransigent on the issue so far.

With both sides dug in, Matthew Cullen, writing for The New York Times, explained Zelensky’s dilemma from a political perspective:

“Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, trudged across Washington today, making urgent pleas for quick approval of more aid for his country’s war against Russia. But in the meetings that mattered most — with Republican leaders whose allies hold the decisive votes — Zelensky’s pitch appeared to hit a brick wall.”

Zelensky’s timing could not have been worse. The Biden White House is rudderless and foundering in the heavy seas of vital competing funding priorities. For example, aid to the US’ closest Middle East ally, Israel, is also up for debate at a time of crucial need in its war with the terrorist organization Hamas. Republicans and many Democrats in border states suffering at the hands of Biden’s disastrous southern border policy demand funds to stop the flood of illegal aliens. All of these needs collide with a crippling wave of $33 trillion in national debt. No wonder the beleaguered Ukrainian leader’s hat-in-hand met with trouble.

It’s not that US lawmakers don’t have compassion for the enormous travails being suffered by Ukraine’s fighters. As Zelensky made the rounds on Capitol Hill, “House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) said he used his own meeting with Zelensky to reiterate his empathy for Ukraine’s tough position, but he indicated that his stance remains firm that the Biden administration needs to agree to tighten its border policies before House lawmakers will agree to sending more aid,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Stumbling Blocks in the Way

A host of other congressional funding issues plague any hope of quick passage of support for Ukraine. First, there is little time left in the current congressional session before the Christmas recess. Furthermore, Congress has a funding process problem to solve. The federal government is operating on a continuing resolution (CR) expiring in February. Once again, the government will face the prospect of shutting down if an appropriations bill or another CR stopgap funding measure is not passed.

Additionally, Americans are growing more frustrated with the Biden administration’s refusal to be more vigilant about how taxpayer dollars are spent in Ukraine. Persistent reports of fraud and corruption within the Ukraine government are not confidence-builders for Americans. Meanwhile, Biden’s refusal to support a special inspector general for Ukraine assistance to provide real-time audits adds to US taxpayers’ skepticism regarding their tax dollars being spent wisely in Kyiv. Consequently, Ukraine’s leader returned with little hope of fast money – his whirlwind tour of the US capital spoiled.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.

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