Biden, After Zelenskyy Meeting, Accuses GOP of ‘Holding Ukraine Funding Hostage’
U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) hold a joint press conference in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington, on Dec. 12, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden targeted Republicans on Tuesday for holding Ukraine funding hostage. His comments came after he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House amid the current stalemate in Congress over Ukraine aid.
The leaders held a joint press conference following their meeting.
“Holding Ukraine funding hostage in an attempt to force through an extreme Republican partisan agenda on the border is not how it works,” President Biden said.
He added that a host of a Kremlin-run show praised Republicans for blocking Ukraine aid.
“If you’re being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you’re doing,” he said.
Before the joint press conference, the Ukrainian president held a bilateral meeting with President Biden at the White House. Prior to that, he visited Capitol Hill to speak with lawmakers and make a last-ditch plea for American aid as the war-torn country enters day 656 of its conflict with Russia.
It is unclear whether his visit would be helpful in breaking the current impasse this week before Congress leaves for the holidays.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must, we must, we must prove him wrong,” President Biden said. “It’s stunning that we’ve gotten to this point.”
The Biden administration requested nearly $106 billion in supplemental funding from Congress, with about $60 billion allocated to support Ukraine’s defense against Russia. Republicans in both chambers are seeking comprehensive immigration reform as a condition for additional funding for Ukraine.
Biden Announces Extra $200 Million in Aid
During his meeting with Mr. Zelenskyy, President Biden announced another $200 million in aid for Ukraine. President Biden stressed the urgency of Congress passing a supplemental aid package to bolster Ukraine’s defense. He raised concerns about Mr. Putin’s alleged plan to target Ukraine’s electrical grid this winter.
The Ukrainian president expressed gratitude for U.S. support, affirming his country’s resolve to win the war.
“We’ve already made significant progress,” Mr. Zelenskyy said during the joint press conference. “We’ve shown that our courage and partnership are stronger than any Russian hostility. And we’ve freed 50 percent of the territory that Russia occupied after February 24.”
He also added that Ukraine has recorded 5 percent economic growth this year.
Mr. Zelensky first met with senators in a closed-door gathering this morning. Speaking on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described the meeting as “very powerful, enlightening, and positive.”
“President Zelenskyy’s message was direct: Ukraine will win the war against Russia if more aid is approved,” Mr. Schumer said. “If no more aid is approved, Putin will win. It’s that simple.”
This was the Ukrainian president’s third visit to the U.S. Capitol.
“He outlined in great detail the kind of help he needs and how it will help him win,” Mr. Schumer told reporters. “He also made one other point. He needs the aid quickly.”
‘Border Is an Absolute Catastrophe’
Mr. Zelenskyy also met with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
After the meeting, Mr. Johnson again appealed for border security alongside Ukraine aid. He also voiced frustration about not receiving a response from Senate Democrats and the White House.
“I have asked the White House since the day that I was handed the gavel as speaker for clarity. We need a clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win, and thus far, their responses have been insufficient,” Mr. Johnson told reporters.
“I have also made it very clear from day one that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national security first. The border is an absolute catastrophe. And this is because of the policies of this White House and this administration.”
Mr. Johnson earlier said that he is not interested in keeping the House in session while senators are far from reaching a deal on the border and Ukraine.
“I don’t know what else to do. I’m not going to have everybody sit here through Christmas twiddling their thumbs. They’ve not sent me anything,” he said on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Senators also signaled earlier that they are no closer to reaching an agreement that would tighten U.S. immigration policies while providing funds to Ukraine.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead Republican negotiator with the White House on the supplemental package, said on Monday that the Ukraine aid is unlikely to be struck this week.
“We’re not going to be able to get [a deal] by Thursday or Friday this week. We’re still working through text,” he told reporters, adding that there are many unresolved issues.
He also stated that it was a “frustrating weekend” since the White House was not including him in the discussions and was just talking to Democrats.
Congress previously approved $111 billion in supplemental funding to support Ukraine and address critical national security needs since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
After the meeting with the Ukrainian president, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Mr. Zelenskyy an “inspirational and determined” leader.
“Our Ukrainian friends’ cause is just, and if the West continues to stand with them, they can win,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“We know that our border, just like Ukraine’s border and Israel’s and Taiwan’s, must be inviable. That’s why, for months now, we’ve supported supplemental action on all four of the most pressing national security challenges we face. Our support for Ukraine and Israel is rock solid.”
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