US Republican leader says no to Zelensky
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has invited US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Kiev, in a bid to “help him with his position” on military aid to the country. While McCarthy has promised not to authorize “blank checks” to Kiev, he backed a multibillion dollar arms package last year.
“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelensky told CNN on Wednesday. Visiting Ukraine, Zelensky continued, “would help [McCarthy] with his position.”
Dozens of Democrats and Republicans have made the journey to Kiev in the year since Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began. President Joe Biden visited the Ukrainian capital last month, while McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, met with Zelensky in Kiev last May.
McCarthy has not made the trip, and told CNN that he has no plans to change this. “Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand whether there’s a blank check or not,” he argued. “I will continue to get my briefings, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kiev to see it.”
While the Democratic Party has unanimously backed President Biden’s policy of propping up Ukraine’s government and military “for as long as it takes,” the GOP is split on the issue. Although McCarthy sided with the majority of House and Senate Republicans in authorizing a $40 billion package of military and economic aid for Ukraine last summer, he led the party’s campaign to retake the House of Representatives in November with a promise to veto any further “blank checks” for Kiev.
He has since stated that he now supports increased oversight of this aid, rather than a reduction. Furthermore, he criticized Biden on Wednesday for not acting “quickly enough” to arm Ukraine, in CNN’s words.
Despite the Republicans winning a majority in the House, McCarthy still had to negotiate with more than a dozen hardline conservative holdouts to win the speakership vote, many of them opponents of continued US assistance to Ukraine. One of the concessions struck between McCarthy and this group was a measure that would allow him to be removed as speaker with only five votes, meaning he has to work to keep skeptics on side.
Eleven such lawmakers, led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, recently introduced a resolution seeking to cut off the supply of arms to Ukraine and demanding that Zelensky pursue peace talks with Russia.