The Ukrainian president, Vladimir Zelensky, will reportedly not be allowed to address the House of Representatives during his visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday. According to the New York Times, the decision was made by Kevin McCarthy, the US House speaker. Instead, McCarthy will hold a private meeting with Zelensky, while those representatives who wish to hear from the Ukrainian leader will have the opportunity to do so at an event organized by the Congressional Ukraine Caucus at the National Archives. The Senate, however, has agreed to host Zelensky, as per his request.
Zelensky traveled to the US this week to deliver a speech to the UN General Assembly and to appeal to American officials for continued support for Ukraine. The Biden administration has requested that Congress authorize an additional $24 billion in Ukraine assistance, and Zelensky had hoped that his personal appeal would help to facilitate its passage.
While supporting Ukraine against Russia is still a popular position among Republicans, there are signs of growing resistance to maintaining the current level of assistance. Representative Byron Donalds of Florida expressed his skepticism regarding providing more aid to Ukraine, stating that there is currently no money in the House for Ukraine and that the country’s budget deficit is already a concern. He believes that any money given to Ukraine would only add to the deficit and ultimately burden future generations. Donalds stated that it is simply not a good time for Zelensky to visit.
Kevin McCarthy also raised questions about the level of military aid being provided to Ukraine. He asked for accountability for the money that has already been spent and inquired about the plan for achieving victory. McCarthy believes that the American public deserves to know these details.
Skepticism regarding Ukraine has been fueled by concerns of corruption within the country. Just before his trip to New York, Zelensky fired his defense minister, who was widely criticized for his failure to combat corruption within his department. Additionally, a Ukrainian construction executive recently accused Oleg Tatarov, a senior aide to the president for law enforcement, of engaging in bribery. Tatarov dismissed these accusations as politically motivated.
Overall, the decision to not allow Zelensky to address the House of Representatives reflects the growing concerns and questions regarding Ukraine and its request for more aid. While the Senate has agreed to host the Ukrainian president, it remains to be seen how the pushback against increased assistance will impact the country’s ongoing relationship with the US.