Sunday, December 17, 2023

Zelensky Plea for Ukraine Aid Draws Sympathy but Doesn’t Break Washington Impasse; White House Open to New Asylum Limits for Ukraine Aid, Source Says

Photo: Carol Guzy/Zuma Press
WSJ: Zelensky Plea for Ukraine Aid Draws Sympathy but Doesn’t Break Washington Impasse:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky drew a sympathetic reception from Congress in a last-ditch trip to Washington, but he failed to break an impasse over military aid to his country, as the funding package he pressed for became enmeshed in U.S. domestic politics.
Many lawmakers of both parties support the tens of billions of dollars in new aid sought by Ukraine, which is closing out the second year of its war against Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But House and Senate Republicans are demanding a crackdown on migrant crossings at the southern U.S. border as a condition for their votes, a step Democrats have rejected.
The policy fight has left funding for Kyiv at a standstill headed into Christmas break, just as the White House has warned that previous rounds of aid are almost exhausted and a new tranche needed to be passed by Congress by year-end. With that deadline appearing out of reach for now, border talks continued Tuesday, and lawmakers who back more aid were holding on to hope that they could approve a deal by early next year.
Zelensky huddled on Tuesday morning with senators and House leaders and on Tuesday afternoon with President Biden. A failure to pass new funding would mark a significant defeat for Biden’s foreign policy and would raise questions about the path forward for Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on U.S. weapons to hold back the Russian army.
“It’s great to be at your side, and we will stay by your side,“ Biden said to Zelensky, sitting in the Oval Office ahead of their private meeting. “I don’t want you giving up hope.”
Zelensky enjoyed a hero’s welcome when he came to Washington almost a year ago, a dramatic 10-hour visit that included an address to Congress that was interrupted by several standing ovations. But growing skepticism about the U.S. role in the conflict, a switch to Republican control of the House and the murky outlook for repelling Russia has tested congressional support.
“It is very important that by the end of this year we can send some very strong signals of unity to the aggressor,” Zelensky said during a joint news conference with Biden.
Senators said Zelensky made the stakes of their talks clear, but his words didn’t move the needle in Congress.
“He’ll fight until the last person,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who emphasized his admiration for Zelensky but also reiterated the need for the Democrats to agree to border-policy changes. “I told President Zelensky my No. 1 obligation is to secure my country, as well as help yours,” Graham recounted. He said he also told him, “You didn’t make this problem, [but] it will affect you, it will affect the whole world.”
“I just don’t think that Democrats specifically appreciate how committed Republicans are to securing our southern border,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt (R., Mo.).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said at a news conference Tuesday it was “practically impossible” for any Ukraine and border deal to pass Congress before the Christmas break, particularly given that the House is planning to leave this week. He wore a yellow tie and blue shirt—a nod to Ukraine’s national colors—while delivering a grim assessment of the deal’s progress and emphasizing the importance of Biden being involved in talks. --->READ MORE HERE
 REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
White House open to new asylum limits for Ukraine aid, source says:
The Biden administration is considering getting behind new restrictions on who can seek asylum and an expanded deportation process to secure new aid for Ukraine and Israel in a supplemental funding bill, a source familiar with discussions said.
The White House and U.S. Congress are racing to strike a deal that would deliver military aid to the two allied nations while discouraging illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border with only a week until lawmakers depart for a Christmas break.
Republicans have refused to approve more Ukraine funding without additional measures to reduce the record number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border illegally, leading to a complex negotiation pairing the largely unrelated issues.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in 2024, said on Wednesday that he would be willing to make significant concessions on border security as Senate Republicans rejected a Democratic aid package with $20 billion in border funding.
The White House would be open to heightening the standard for initial asylum screenings, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, requesting anonymity to discuss the talks.
The Biden administration also would entertain some form of a "safe third country" provision that would deny asylum to migrants who pass through another country en route to the U.S., the source said.
Another possible point of agreement could be expanding a fast-track deportation process known as "expedited removal." The authority would be employed nationwide instead of its current application at the border, the source said.
A bipartisan group of senators trying to reach a deal are also discussing a numerical limitation on asylum claims, the source said. The Biden administration position on such a cap remains unclear. --->READ MORE HERE
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