Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, holding meetings with President Joe Biden, Pentagon officials, and Congress. He first met with the bipartisan leadership of the House, followed by a briefing with the Senate. In both chambers, Zelenskyy’s request for further assistance depends on the ability of Congress to overcome the Republican dysfunction in the House of Representatives.
The signs aren’t auspicious. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy went into the meeting with a bad attitude, starting with his refusal of Zelenskyy’s request to speak to a joint session of Congress. “We just didn’t have time,” McCarthy told reporters. “He’s already given a joint session.” Then he reiterated that he would demand Zelenskyy justify his request for continued assistance. “What is the plan for victory? Where are we currently on the field? The accountability issues that a lot of members have questions, just walk through that.”
Zelenskyy could very well turn those questions on McCarthy, who has no plan for victory over the dozen or so members of his own conference who are refusing to do their one basic job: keep the government funded and functioning.
The Senate provided a more receptive audience. Zelenskyy has powerful allies there, including the Democratic majority, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the majority of Republican senators who realize the stakes in this war.
Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas spoke to the concern that the dysfunction in the House and the threat of the government shutdown fight is delaying assistance. “Am I worried that might be the case? Yes,” he told Politico. “It’s a terrible message, as we struggle to take care of assisting Ukraine in this war. Just even the process is damaging to the view of the stability of the United States and being an ally.”
That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the Senate, as well. The usual suspect, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, threatened to help the House shut the government down Wednesday, by saying he would not allow the Senate to move a stopgap government funding bill through quickly if it included Ukraine aid. Not to be outdone, freshman Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio piled on with a letter to the Biden administration, rejecting the request. He had just five other senators on board, plus a bunch of House Freedom Caucus jerks.
That attitude is deepening the divide in the Senate, where one Democrat is ready to blow. “These guys need to get goddamn with the program,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana exclaimed. “These guys don’t want to protect democracy in the world? What the hell have we become?”
That’s what the world is probably wondering now, watching one half of the Congress being held hostage by just a handful of nihilists.
Kerry and Markos talk about what is happening in Ukraine, what needs to be done, and why the fate of Ukraine is tied to democracy’s fate in 2024.