Hosting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House on Thursday, President Joe Biden sought to quiet any doubts about the U.S. continuing a full-force support for Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country stretches past a year and a half.
“The American people are determined to see to it that we do all we can to ensure the world stands with you,” Biden told the Ukrainian leader.
“The people of Ukraine have shown enormous bravery," the president said, calling it "inspiring."
The Ukrainian president’s return to the White House included a formal sit-down with Biden in the Oval Office followed by an expanded meeting in the East Room, with multiple cabinet secretaries and Vice President Kamala Harris also attending. The president and first lady Jill Biden waited on the White House South Lawn to greet Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska when they arrived.
Zelenskyy responded to one shouted question from the press as the two couples posed for pictures during the arrival, calling the significance of the Washington visit, his second since Russia's invasion, “very important."
Following the East Room meeting, Biden told Zelenskyy “Democrats and Republicans alike” understand what Ukraine is fighting for, adding the country is “proving that nothing can dim the flame of liberty that burns in the heart of free people.”
"This is about the future of freedom," Biden said to Zelenskyy. "America can never, will never, walk away from that.”
"Mr. President, we’re with you," he added. "We’re staying with you”
Coinciding with Zelenskyy’s visit, the White House on Thursday announced a new U.S. aid package worth $325 million – funds already previously approved by Congress.
Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for its support multiple times in both meetings.
The Ukrainian president spent the morning with members of Congress on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, as some Republicans express hesitancy about the U.S. continuing to put funds toward the war effort.
Biden’s request to Congress for an additional about $24 billion in aid to the country is currently caught up in the chaotic government funding battle.
The White House says it needs the money to be able to support Ukraine from the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 through the end of the calendar year.
But lawmakers are struggling just to find an agreement to keep the U.S. government from shutting down at the end of September.
And although most lawmakers in the House and Senate generally support continued assistance to the country, some members have taken a hard line on the topic.
On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would oppose any short-term government funding proposal that included aid to Ukraine.
Some House Republicans have also expressed stern opposition to additional funding, with 70 House Republicans in July voting in favor of an amendment to end security assistance to the country entirely. It ultimately didn’t pass.
Zelenskyy referred to his conversations on the hill Thursday as “frank” and “constructive” at the top of the Oval Office sit-down.
During brief remarks from Biden and Zelenskyy at the end of their expanded meeting, a reporter shouted a question about whether Zelenskyy received any assurances from lawmakers that Congress will approve the requested additional aid for Ukraine.
“I’m counting on the good judgment of the United States Congress,” Biden responded. “There is no alternative.”