Zelenskyy visit highlights fraught week in Congress

If Congress sticks to its established schedule, this will be the last work week for the year, and it will be a consequential one. That’s particularly true for Ukraine, which is why President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been forced to drop everything and come to Washington, D.C., to plead for his country.

Zelenskyy will be in D.C. Tuesday, meeting with President Joe Biden, senators, and House Speaker Mike Johnson. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the visit Sunday, saying the president’s meeting is intended to “underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion.”

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” Jean-Pierre’s statement concluded.

For Republicans, that message is likely to fall on deaf ears. CNN cites Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who tweeted Sunday, “America has sent enough money to Ukraine. We should tell Zelensky to seek peace.” Seeking peace means Russian occupation of Ukraine, and Republicans making that argument damn well know it.

Speaker Johnson might be too preoccupied with moving the House toward a specious and utterly baseless impeachment to be swayed by Zelenskyy. Pursuing a formal impeachment inquiry is the last thing the House should be doing, especially this week, but it’s sitting there as a possibility on Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s calendar, with the Rules Committee expected to consider the resolution to authorize the impeachment on Tuesday.

Senate negotiators continue to work on Republicans’ extortion demands: Ukraine aid in return for permanent and extreme immigration measures. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a lead Democratic negotiator, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he expects the White House to become more engaged but that “Republicans have to be reasonable” and relent to allow Ukraine aid in the next few weeks. “We’re not going to solve the entire problem of immigration” by the end of the year, he said.

Zelenskyy’s intervention could help convince enough Republicans to fund his country’s war effort. And while that’s happening, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and a group of fellow Democrats are demonstrating their ongoing commitment to real immigration reform. Over the weekend, they traveled to Guatemala to focus on the root causes of the surge in migration. “We cannot ignore the reality of the numbers and where they’re coming from,” Durbin told Punchbowl News. “We didn’t design the border policies for the volume of this nature. And we have to find a way, as painful as it may be, to bring some order.”

The other primary business slated for the week is finally passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that sets the priorities and allocates the eventual appropriations for defense. As of now, the Senate is slated to pass it as soon as Wednesday and leave on Thursday for the holiday recess. That’s subject to change if something breaks on the Ukraine/immigration front. The House is likely to take up the NDAA under suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds majority vote, a move that would thwart the Freedom Caucus—which is officially opposed to it—from blocking it from reaching the floor under regular order.

However this week turns out, it’s setting Congress up for a very rough and contentious few weeks before the first government funding deadline of Jan. 19.

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