Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Ukraine during an exclusive interview with CNN.
“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
But the California Republican told CNN on Tuesday he had no plans to visit.
“Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN. “I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it.”
Almost every Western leader who matters, and many who don’t, have now made the daring trip to visit Zelensky, a hero of democracy, in Kyiv.
Yet McCarthy, who has a reputation for loving a photo-op with famous people, rebuffed the invitation to visit the Ukrainian leader.
His bridging of two adamant strands of opinion in the House GOP on Ukraine is just about holding. Moderate Republicans who helped the GOP win the majority last November are just as important to the party’s hopes of retaining control of the chamber next year as pro-Trump extremists. But their priorities risk being constantly compromised by the speaker’s repeated plays to Trump’s base and the ex-president’s most devoted followers in the House.
Making the trip is effectively a political impossibility for McCarthy as Trump accused Biden of caring more about Ukraine’s borders than America’s.
McCarthy hasn’t fully adopted demands of his most radical subordinates, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, for audits or an end to Ukraine aid. His line about a blank check could be interpreted as a holding position between his extremist colleagues and hawkish internationalist Republicans who want to do more.
But with Russia only escalating its assault and the GOP presidential primary likely to drag the party toward the anti-aid faction, it’s a position that may crumble before much longer.