Zelensky Invited to Address Senators as Ukraine Aid Remains Ensnared

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg News/TNS) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to speak to senators at a classified briefing Tuesday as aid to his country remains snarled in a partisan dispute over U.S. border security, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Monday.

Schumer also set up a test vote on advancing a national security supplemental package including funding for Ukraine on Wednesday.

Zelensky, who would speak remotely, was invited “so we can hear directly from him precisely what’s at stake in this vote,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Schumer had previously told reporters that in a visit to the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, Zelensky said that if his country doesn’t receive the assistance, it will lose the war to Russia.

Yet the package continues to be held up by Republican demands that Democrats and the White House make major concessions on immigration policy to curb a surge in migrant crossings at the U.S. border with Mexico.

President Joe Biden’s budget director, Shalanda Young, warned Monday that the U.S. would run completely out of resources to assist Ukraine by the end of the calendar year.

Talks made no progress over the weekend, with Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the Democratic negotiators, telling reporters Monday that his party had to see Republican movement from positions that he said would get zero Democratic votes.

“This is a really dangerous moment, given the fact the Republicans refuse to support Ukraine without their other political priorities being addressed,” Murphy said.

Top Republican negotiator James Lankford of Oklahoma, however, said the two sides were still trading paper and that they must reach a deal. “We’ve got to get it fixed,” he said.

Schumer warned of dire consequences if Republicans block the legislation. “America’s national security is on the line,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “If Ukraine falls, Putin will keep on going.”

Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, however, thinks Democrats might need to see Republicans vote to block the bill before they would get “serious” about addressing the border surge.

Cornyn, who has supported aid to Ukraine, said he believed Republicans were united on voting to block the bill without a deal in hand on new border crossing restrictions.

Another unknown is what new House Speaker Mike Johnson might accept. Many House Republicans have been insisting on a bill with a collection of tough immigration policies that has no Democratic support. Lankford said it’s “not rational” to insist on that bill given the lack of Democratic support. “You can’t make law like that. We have to make law,” he said.

Administration officials will also be providing an all-members classified Ukraine briefing for the House on Tuesday. Zelensky as of Monday night was not expected to participate in that, a GOP official who confirmed the briefing said.

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