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Schumer arrives in Ukraine for historic visit

News: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived in Ukraine Friday morning, making him the highest-ranking congressional leader to visit the war-torn nation since then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip nearly two years ago.

Schumer and his delegation arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv from Poland this morning. He plans to hold meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian military leaders.

Schumer’s visit comes at a critical time for Ukraine, the Western coalition and Congress. The Senate passed a foreign aid package recently that includes $60 billion in military and economic assistance for Ukraine. But there’s no clear path for that legislation in the House, where opposition to more money for the embattled U.S. ally is growing. This uncertainty dominated lawmakers’ meetings with foreign leaders at the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

Schumer’s trip — which was in the works for several weeks — coincides with the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Senate’s approval of new Ukraine funding gives Schumer a boost as he looks to put pressure on the House.

In an interview ahead of his visit, Schumer told us his goal is twofold — reassure the Ukrainians that “America has not given up on them,” and try to persuade his colleagues back home, particularly Speaker Mike Johnson, to move swiftly on an aid package.

“This is truly a turning point in our history… We want to show the Ukrainian people we feel that urgency,” Schumer said. “And we want to get in detail about how the lack of armaments and the inability to pass this supplemental hurts Ukraine, and what the consequences will be if we don’t do it.”

Schumer sat down with us on Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours before he and four other senators — Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) — were wheels-up from Joint Base Andrews.

When asked about it not being a bipartisan delegation, Schumer noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell only took Republicans with him when he visited Ukraine in May of 2022.

“There are a lot of Republicans who are torn on this issue,” Schumer said, adding that he wants to speak with Johnson after this visit. “I hope that our trip, and what we bring back, can persuade them to step up to the plate…There’s no better way to win people over than to actually be on the scene and report what is going on.”

Some House Republicans have traveled to Ukraine more recently, including Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

Interestingly, Schumer noted that Americans are asking a number of questions about the war — including whether Ukraine can actually defeat Russia — in light of recent battlefield losses. This has been a fixation of those who oppose new aid for Ukraine, arguing that the United States is simply funding a bloody stalemate.

The White House has said Congress’ failure to act on Ukraine aid is to blame for these setbacks. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this to lawmakers in Munich, as we first reported.

Schumer told us he intends to “bring back some real answers on that — right from the leadership of Ukraine, the people who know it best.”

More from Schumer:

The trip is also a big moment for Schumer personally. As we’ve written, Schumer wasn’t deeply involved in foreign policy during his 40 years in Congress prior to becoming Senate majority leader — a position that comes with high-level intelligence briefings and an international profile.

“I really feel a passion about getting the aid and going [to Ukraine],” Schumer said. “If not now, when? This is the moment.”

— Andrew Desiderio

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