McCarthy Turns Down Zelensky’s Invitation to Visit Ukraine

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Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday declined an invitation to visit Ukraine from President Volodymyr Zelensky, who, in an interview with CNN, suggested that a trip to Kyiv may challenge the House leader’s “assumptions” about military aid.

The exchange comes as some of Mr. McCarthy’s fellow Republicans in Congress are questioning, or opposing, the large sums of aid that the United States has provided to Ukraine. In two House committee hearings last month, which were held just a few days after the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, concerns over the tens of billions of dollars that the United States has sent to Kyiv intensified, with lawmakers from both parties expressing doubts about future aid packages.

Mr. McCarthy “has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now,” Mr. Zelensky said in the interview with CNN. He added that if Mr. McCarthy visited Ukraine, “I think it would help him with his position.”

But the House speaker swiftly turned down the request. “I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it,” Mr. McCarthy told CNN. “And my point has always been, I won’t provide a blank check for anything.”

An email and a phone call to Mr. McCarthy’s office were not immediately returned.

Several high-level Americans have gone to Kyiv since the war began, some in the past two months. In February, President Biden traveled to Kyiv to demonstrate the United States’ “unwavering support” for Ukraine. He walked through the Ukrainian capital’s streets alongside Mr. Zelensky as air-raid sirens sounded. One week later, the Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, visited Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, and announced the transfer of $1.25 billion in economic and budget assistance to Ukraine. And last week, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland met with Mr. Zelensky and attended a conference in Lviv.

There had been strong bipartisan support in Congress for providing military assistance to Ukraine, though enthusiasm has waned as the war grinds on. Republican control of the House could make it difficult for the Biden administration to win approval for more funding packages.

More questions from lawmakers are coming as backing from Americans may be slipping. Overall, public support for Ukraine aid has fallen from 60 percent last May to 48 percent in January, according to surveys by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The share of Americans who think the United States has given too much to Ukraine has grown from 7 percent a year ago to 26 percent in January, according to the Pew Research Center.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.


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