Reviews | Pelosi’s partisan politics on Ukraine could have deadly consequences

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) deserves credit for leading a congressional delegation to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a trip she tweetedwho sent “an unequivocal and resounding message to the whole world: America stands firmly with Ukraine”.

It would have been a much louder message had it been bipartisan.

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The president’s all-Democrat delegation included House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-California), but the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Michael R. Turner (Ohio), did not not been invited, according to congressional sources. Rep. Mike D. Rogers (Alabama), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee who is responsible for the $33 billion military aid package President Biden has requested from Ukraine, was not. no more. Still, a Democratic committee member, Rep. Jason Crow (Colo.), was included. Pelosi’s counterpart, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was also not invited — due to bad blood between them, a spokesperson for Pelosi. The only ranking Republican on a committee with expertise in Ukraine policy to be invited was Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who had just returned from his third trip to the area and couldn’t go. .

After McCaul told Pelosi he couldn’t go, he recommended that he ask Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe. Fitzpatrick is also co-chairman of the bipartisan Ukrainian Congressional Caucus and a former FBI agent whose last posting before entering Congress was in Kyiv. He had a pre-commitment, Fitzpatrick told me, but “I would have canceled in a second if I had been invited.” But he was not. Why didn’t Pelosi include it? Maybe, he says, it’s because he’s on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee target list of 22 Republican or open seats he hopes to win in November. McCaul also recommended that Pelosi invite Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), another member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also did not receive an invitation.

Pelosi’s spokesperson told me that “many” House GOP members were invited, though he declined to offer names, and that “none of the Republicans accepted the invitation.” He said that “given the security precautions for this trip” members could not be told the destination was Kyiv and were instead told “it was a codel to Poland”. But McCaul was informed that the congressional delegation planned to visit Ukraine. And the idea that Pelosi can’t tell the destination to senior members of congressional national security committees — who have access to our country’s most classified intelligence — is absurd. If she had wanted to bring high-ranking Republicans with her to meet with Zelensky, she could have. Including Republicans who criticized her would have sent a powerful message: whatever our differences at home, we are united in support of Ukraine. But she chose not to.

In the end, what matters more than the photo op is the congressional-approved military aid package. But instead of calling the House back in session when it returns to immediately pass the $33 billion in military and humanitarian support, Pelosi is tying aid to Ukraine to a controversial package of additional billions of dollars in covid relief. Asked how the two priorities relate, Pelosi told reporters on Friday: “i’m for that“, adding that” we must have the covid money.

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Pelosi is well aware that many Republicans have legitimate concerns about extra pandemic spending after Democrats squandered much of the $1.9 trillion they approved in a party vote last year. She also knows that Senate Republicans rightly associate a vote on covid relief with a vote on bipartisan legislation to uphold Title 42 – the public health order that allows border officials to turn away migrants in the goal of minimizing the spread of the virus – in place until 60 days after the surgeon general announces the end of the pandemic public health emergency. So linking aid to Ukraine with covid relief necessarily entangles it in the politics of dividing the southern border.

Pelosi might think she can back down Republicans on Title 42 by blaming them for any delays in Ukraine aid. “It’s called legislating”, Pelosi mentioned. Ukrainians are fighting for their lives – they don’t have time to wait for Congress to “legislate” foreign issues.

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) — who also wasn’t invited to kyiv by Pelosi but tells me he would gladly have gone to meet Zelensky — tweeted“If Speaker Pelosi’s tough talk in Ukraine is serious, she should immediately recall the House in session to vote on additional weapons for Ukraine that are NOT associated with COVID spending. We are in a race against time with the Russians.

He is right. Not bringing Republicans to kyiv was a lost opportunity. But playing a political tightrope with aid to Ukraine that enjoys broad bipartisan support would be a scandal with deadly consequences.

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