Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is inviting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Ukraine to see the situation on the ground first hand – an invitation that comes as the Republican Party faces a divide over whether the United States should continue to provide aid to the country under attack from Russia.
“Mr. McCarthy, he 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. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview.
But when told of the invitation on Tuesday, McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju that he does not plan to visit Ukraine, and argued that President Joe Biden has not acted quickly enough to aid the country. McCarthy, a California Republican, has said he supports Ukraine but does not support “a blank check,” a position he repeated on Tuesday – even though there is federal oversight of all the dollars that are spent there.
“I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position,” Zelensky said.
As speaker, McCarthy must navigate competing views within his party over sending additional assistance. There is widespread bipartisan support for Ukraine in Congress, but some House Republicans are calling for an end to further military and financial aid to the country.
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“Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN. “I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it. And my point has always been, I won’t provide a blank check for anything.”
As the conflict in Ukraine unfolds, Zelensky has worked to rally support for his country as he continues to emphasize the need for aid. The Ukrainian president said that any lawmaker who visits can see the reality of what is happening in the war-torn country. Biden visited Kyiv in February in a show of support for Ukraine.
“When the Democrats and Republicans come to us, they see the supply roots – every shell, every bullet, every dollar,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky has expressed gratitude to the US for the aid it has provided as he has made appeals on behalf of Ukraine. Last year, he delivered a historic speech from the United States Capitol, arguing that support from the US “is crucial not just to stand in such (a) fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield.”
Asked by Blitzer if he is concerned that pushback from some Republicans could threaten the flow of aid to the country, Zelensky praised the fact that there has been bipartisan support for Ukraine on Capitol Hill.
“Firstly, I would like to thank the bipartisan support of Ukraine – it’s very important,” Zelensky said.
“Recently, I had a meeting with representatives of the Republican Party and I’m thankful to the congressmen who visited Ukraine. They told me that they want to support Ukraine very much, like the Democrats,” he said.
Zelensky went on to say, “We don’t care about the side of the support as long as it’s powerful and constant.”
McCarthy has previously told CNN he does not support a resolution from GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida declaring congressional “fatigue” over supporting Ukraine, but McCarthy has also indicated he would not automatically rubber stamp any aid package the Biden administration requests – a sign that it will be more difficult to pass additional Ukraine funding under a GOP-led House.