In Washington, Zelensky seeks to rally support for grueling war with Russia

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from The Washington Post,

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an impassioned and emotional plea to Congress on Wednesday for continued American support against Russia’s unrelenting assault, speaking personally and passionately about why Ukraine needed more aid and weapons to lawmakers whose ranks include some vocal skeptics of future reinforcements.

Zelensky, who has found his closest ally in Biden, faced a far greater challenge on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of House Republicans — who are poised to take control of the chamber in January — have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to continuing to send more aid to Ukraine. Zelensky’s visit also came as U.S. public support for sending expansive amounts of aid to Ukraine has softened significantly over the past several months amid rising economic anxieties.

Still, Zelensky — who donned his signature military green sweater and heavy boots — received several standing ovations from the hundreds of lawmakers gathered Wednesday, at times almost moving him to tears. But he told Congress he needs more aid and weapons to defeat Russia, and sought to convince lawmakers that they were not doing Ukraine a favor — that the United States and other countries had just as much of a stake in the war as Ukraine does.

“We have artillery, yes, thank you. … Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” Zelensky said. He continued: “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

After the speech, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said: “My position has never changed. I support Ukraine but I never supported a blank check. We want to make sure there’s accountability for everybody, the money that is spent.” His comments reflected a growing consensus among House Republicans who have demanded more oversight of how allotted funds are used.

But a small group of House Republicans critical of the ongoing funding to Ukraine, including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida, did not clap for Zelensky when he walked onto the House floor and rarely stood throughout his speech. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the top critics of funding the war, did not attend.

“I attended out of respect, not agreement,” Gaetz told reporters after the speech.

Congress is poised to pass $45 billion in new spending for Ukraine this week in an end-of-year spending package. Yet several House Republicans criticized the aid package Wednesday or Zelensky’s visit directly.

Republican Chip Roy of Texas called the Ukrainian president’s address to Congress “political theater.”

“This is more of the theater that is being orchestrated by the current outgoing Democratic House leadership and Senate leadership,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

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