With the House now in Republican hands, Ukraine needs GOP support to survive.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been trying to arrange a call or visit from Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). On Tuesday, Zelensky publicly invited McCarthy to come to Kyiv — an offer that the speaker appears to have refused.
“I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN on Tuesday.
His response mimics language used by the relatively small but vocal and influential portion of his caucus that is calling for an end to — or severe limitation on — U.S. military support for Ukraine.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of cutting a “blank check” to Ukraine, while saying that the U.S. should cut off aid to Kyiv. She’s often phrased her opposition as a concern about American military aid being siphoned off in Ukraine for corrupt purposes. The vast majority of U.S. aid comes in the form of hardware, and there’s nothing to suggest it’s been used for anything other than defending the country against Russian aggression.
McCarthy has echoed Greene’s language elsewhere as well. It’s not clear yet how serious far-right holdouts in his caucus are when they demand that he refuse to approve additional Ukraine aid packages, but McCarthy’s speakership has repeatedly been shown to be in thrall to this small group.
Zelensky has tried to wade into that mess with his own brand of diplomacy. Punchbowl reported last week that Kyiv was trying to set up a phone call between McCarthy and Zelensky; that effort seems to have fallen through.
Zelensky raised the stakes this week, telling CNN on Tuesday that McCarthy should come to Ukraine “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 added that McCarthy has “never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position.”
Estimates differ on how long the last military aid package, passed in December days before the current House was seated, will last. Some experts have argued that additional weapons shipments that Kyiv wants, like F-16 fighter jets, may require additional congressional action due to their price tag.
McCarthy office didn’t return TPM’s request for comment on whether his suggestion that he doesn’t have to go constitutes a refusal.