US Republicans reveal why they walked out of Senate Ukraine briefing
A classified, high-stakes US Senate briefing on Ukraine has spiraled out of control, with some Republicans storming out of the meeting, fuming over Democrats’ perceived reluctance to cut a deal on aid to Kiev by making concessions on tighter immigration controls.
Tuesday’s closed-door meeting, which was attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and several other top US officials, was supposed to focus on a $111 billion security package backed by the Democrats. The measure included aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as addressing US border security.
The briefing got off to a rocky start, however, when Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who was scheduled to participate online, failed to do so due to a “last-minute” snag.
According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Republican leader Mitch McConnell attempted to “hijack” the agenda by asking a fellow party member to present the GOP’s proposals on border security instead of questioning Biden officials about Ukraine aid.
When the Democrats objected, one of the Republicans “was disrespectful and started screaming at one of the generals and challenging him to why they didn’t go to the border,” Schumer said.
When it finally came to Ukraine aid, some Republican lawmakers called the discussions a “waste of time,” claiming that Biden officials provided generic and repetitive answers. Several GOP members – including staunch supporters of Kiev – stormed out of the meeting.
“People got up and walked out because this is a waste of time… They just said ‘This isn’t worth it, this is a joke, you’re not serious about this,’” GOP Senator Kevin Cramer said.
Commenting on the tumultuous briefing, Republican Senator Mitt Romney remarked that “we want to help Ukraine and Israel, but we have got to have the Democrats recognize that the trade here, the deal is we stop the open border.”
Washington’s assistance to Ukraine has been hampered by congressional gridlock for several weeks now, with a senior State Department official warning that the US is “at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to our ability to provide security assistance to Ukraine,” amid fears of a “very difficult winter.”
Meanwhile, Andrey Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, warned that delays in the US assistance could lead to the defeat of Ukraine by Russia.