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GOP dysfunction on display as Ukraine’s Zelenskyy visits Washington
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rebuffs Zelenskyy request to address Congress as he fails to advance a bill to fund the Pentagon, saying MAGA members ‘just want to burn the whole place down.’
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) made little effort to hide his frustration after MAGA extremists in his own party helped defeat a measure to advance debate on a bill to fund the Department of Defense, and the federal government seemed headed to a shutdown when funding expires October 1.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” McCarthy said of the Republican extremists. “That doesn’t work.”
The failed rule vote on a defense spending measure, the second this week, came as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Washington, hoping to rally bipartisan support for continued American support for Ukraine in its self-defense over five hundred days into Russia’s full-scale invasion.
But McCarthy today acknowledged that he rejected the wartime leader’s request to address Congress, citing his own party’s inability to pass a bill to fund the government.
“Look what we're in the middle of,” McCarthy said of his reason for rebuffing Zelenskyy’s request. “Do we have time for that? To take that off the floor? And he's already provided that before.”
US President Joe Biden, speaking at a cabinet meeting with Zelenskyy at the White House this evening, paused before answering a reporter’s question if he was confident Congress would eventually pass a funding bill that would include more support for Ukraine.
“I’m counting on the good judgement of the United States Congress,” Biden said. “There is no alternative.”
Earlier in the meeting, Biden said the first U.S. Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine next week.
Biden also said that today he signed the next tranche of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, which include more artillery, ammunition, and anti-tank weapons.
“Next week, the first U.S. Abrams tanks will be delivered in Ukraine,” Biden said. “We also focused on strengthening Ukraine’s air defense capabilities to protect the critical infrastructure that provides heat and light during the coldest and darkest days of the year. That includes providing the second Hawk air defense battery…And a new package of launchers and interceptors that’s going to protect…Ukraine’s grain siloes, hospitals, schools and power plants, that will help save Ukrainian lives.”
Whatever the awkwardness of the day and any private dismay at McCarthy’s rebuffing of his request to address Congress, Zelenskyy, in his public remarks, was gracious, and repeatedly thanked the president, Congress, and the American people.
“Thank you so much, Mr. President,” Zelenskyy, wearing his wartime fatigues and speaking in English, said. “And thanks to American people. All these days they were together with us or with Ukrainians, with all our people, all of us. Thank you so much. Thanks you, your team, Congress, and thanks journalists that for all your messages to your society and to the world that you share the truth about this tragedy, aggression from Russia.”
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the United States would not be announcing the provision of long-range ATACMs missile systems for Ukraine today, but may do so at a later time. He did not explain the rationale for the decision not to provide them now.
The President “is constantly speaking to military counterparts in Europe, to the Ukrainians, about what is needed, while also ensuring we can provide for ourselves,” Sullivan said at the White House press conference today (Sept. 21). “As he’s weighed all that up, to date, he has determined that he would not provide ATACMS, but he has also not taken it off the table in the future.”
Sullivan also said he believed Congress would eventually come through with funding to provide continued support for Ukraine.
“What I believe is that when all is said and done, the support will be there,” Sullivan said.
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