House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Thursday that he denied a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address Congress as members of his caucus increasingly have expressed reservations about whether to keep sending billions of dollars to Ukraine amid its war with Russia.
After addressing the United Nations on Tuesday in New York City, Mr. Zelenskyy is in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden and congressional lawmakers. Lawmakers on Thursday indicated he already met with members of the Senate and House.
“President Zelenskyy asked for a joint session. We just didn’t have time. He’s already given a joint session [address],” Mr. McCarthy told reporters on Thursday, making reference to his visit to the United States in December of last year.
He added to reporters: "What we’re doing for Zelenskyy is exactly the same thing we did for the prime minister of the UK, the prime minister of Italy. We’ll put the bipartisan group of members together to meet with him, no different than we did with anybody else."
The reason for the denial, according to Mr. McCarthy, is because the House is facing an impasse over how to fund the federal government. The deadline to pass a resolution is Sept. 30.
"And this is a little busy week. We’re dealing with the funding issue," he said. "I don’t know how we could slip that in such a short time.”
Reports indicated that Mr. Zelenskyy met with the House speaker and other top congressional leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The Ukrainian president also will meet with senators on Thursday morning, according to reports.
Some GOP House members and senators have vocally opposed further military aid to Ukraine. More than two dozen House representatives signed a letter demanding more transparency about how the funds are distributed in Ukraine.
Before he met with the Ukrainian leader, Mr. McCarthy asked Mr. Zelenskyy if he had a strategy to win the war with Russia, coming about a year-and-a-half after Moscow launched its invasion.
“I think a lot of people have the question … what’s the strategy to win?" he told reporters. "Accountability—they want to make sure the resources are going to the right place."
Aid for UkraineThe White House has asked for another $24 billion in aid to support Kyiv's military efforts, which has been backed by congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, Mr. McConnell, the GOP Senate leader, has also been vocal in providing defensive and financial aid to Ukraine.
When he was last in Washington in December, Mr. Zelenskyy was able to garner some $50 billion in aid. At the time, he delivered a plea to members of Congress to provide more weapons and assistance.
The White House’s latest request seeks another $24 billion in security, economic, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Mr. McCaul told ABC News that during Thursday's meeting, Mr. Zelenskyy discussed the latest aid request and said he was confident Ukraine would get it.
"They did and they're gonna get it," Mr. McCaul told the outlet. "I said, you know, the majority of the majority support this. I know, there's some dissension on both sides, but I said war of attrition is not going to win this," claiming that it's what Russia wants. "We can't afford a war of attrition."
President Joe Biden, in his speech at the United Nations building in New York, called on world leaders to stand by Ukraine's military efforts against Russia.
"We have to stand up to this naked aggression today, and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow. That's why the United States, together with our allies and partners around the world, will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity and their freedom," the president said to applause.
The White House previously confirmed President Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy will meet in the White House's Oval Office on Thursday afternoon. Officials said he will make an appearance at the Pentagon, where he'll meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other leaders.