According to a Senate chief aide, Zelensky will speak directly to senators on Tuesday morning, a crucial opportunity for him to win over senators to send him aid before the end of the year. A bipartisan group of senators is struggling to finalize a deal to tighten border security in exchange for Ukraine funding, and the chamber is scheduled to go into recess later this week.
Zelensky is also expected to speak with the speaker Mike Johnson, Johnson’s spokesman Raj Shah said.
Last week, Zelenskyy was scheduled to hold a video conference with senators, but “something came up,” the Senate majority leader said, and canceled at the last minute. Chuck Schumer told reporters.
White House aides have long observed that public support for Ukraine spikes after a major development in the war or a moment involving Zelenskyy that turns the conflict into headlines.
Zelensky’s visit to Washington could do that again, while also applying pressure on the GOP, said a senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions. This will push mainstream Republicans to step up against the leadership and those in their party who are reluctant to support Ukraine. White House aides still think more Republicans are helping Kyiv, the official said, and Zelensky’s visit just before Christmas could resume momentum.
“Whenever he comes here, it’s an opportunity for front-page news, what’s at stake, what’s happening in Ukraine now, why it’s still important to the American people,” said another administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. To speak freely. “Of course, he is the best lawyer for his country.”
The official said the trip to Washington came together after Zelenskyy decided to attend Sunday’s inauguration of Argentina’s new president because he was already in the same hemisphere.
“Once he opens the door, it’s very easy for him to go to other places,” the executive said.. “It made sense to both the White House and President Zelensky and the Office of the President of Ukraine that this was a good opportunity for him to come to the United States.
The White House has not yet announced plans for a news conference during Tuesday’s visit, but the official said that one could be in the works, as Zelenskyy has spoken to reporters on past visits.
In a letter to congressional leaders last week, White House budget chief Shalanda Young warned that inaction on a new round of funding by the end of the year threatens to “bring Ukraine to its knees on the battlefield.”
On Sunday, Young reiterated his push for congressional action, painting a grim picture of what the Ukrainian debacle could mean at home.
“What Happens When Putin Marches Through Ukraine, What’s Next?” Young said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “NATO countries, our sons and daughters are at risk of being part of a bigger conflict. It’s not just Putin — other dictators are watching what Congress is doing.
But the pressure so far has been in vain. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) accused Republicans of being “unreasonable” in their demands.
“If I were a cynic, I would say that Republicans have decided to tie support for Ukraine to immigration reform because they want Ukraine aid to fail,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But I’m not a cynic. So we’re still trying to work out some big differences.
Murphy said Republicans have conditioned their support on the $106 billion additional spending bill. In addition, the money for the border includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.
Republicans’ latest border proposal includes a number of demands — some of which Democrats in the Senate have already rejected — including a ban on class-based “parole” and reviving a form of Title 42 deportation powers.
While some have pushed for separate aid to Ukraine as the country struggles to contain Russian forces, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who has been leading negotiations for his party in the Senate, shelved the idea Sunday.
“Can Ukraine get aid out of this alone?” Margaret Brennan asked Lankford during an interview titled “Face the Nation.”
“No, no… what you’re asking from a lot of people is, why should we be dealing with other people’s national security and ignoring US national security?” Lankford said. “We can do two things for America at once,” he later said.
Burgess Everett and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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