Zelensky's Green Christmas and an Omnibus
Zelensky came to Washington to receive a $45 billion Christmas present, stuffed in a sack of $1.7 trillion in U.S. government spending.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to Washington on Wednesday to receive a $45 billion Christmas present, stuffed in a sack of $1.7 trillion in U.S. government spending
Zelensky’s trip to the American capital was the Ukrainian president’s first foreign trip since the Russian invasion began nearly ten months ago. He arrived in Washington, half a world away from the battlefield, sporting his trademark green military fatigues and combat boots instead of a suit—a perfect encapsulation of the self-righteous melodrama that has defined Ukraine and its backers since the beginning of the conflict. Zelensky is an actor and comedian. He knows how to say the line, do the bits, and put on a show. That much hasn’t changed. The agenda for the brief trip included a meeting with President Joe Biden, followed by a joint press conference at the White House.
During Zelensky and Biden’s meeting, Biden announced that Ukraine will receive $1.85 billion worth of military equipment and ammunition, which Biden said, “includes both direct transfers of equipment to Ukraine… as well as contracts to supply ammunition Ukraine will need in the months ahead for its artillery, its tanks, and its rocket launchers.”
“Critically, in addition to these new capabilities, like precision aerial munitions, the package will include a Patriot missile battery,” the president said. It marked a serious escalation in the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine. Up until yesterday, the U.S. was reluctant to give Ukraine a Patriot missile system because it would require either U.S. operators to use or Ukrainian operators go through intense training. “We’ll train Ukrainian forces to operate as part of the ongoing effort to bolster Ukraine’s air defense,” the president claimed, but did not provide further details on whether this training will happen in Ukraine, the U.S., or a third country. With the announcement of the Patriot missile system, the U.S. is coming awfully close to openly admitting it has operators on the ground in Ukraine, which it almost certainly already does.
Biden assured Zelensky, “the American people are with you every step of the way.” He might mean it quite literally. “And we will stay as long as it takes,” the president added. The forever war of liberal democracy didn’t end with Afghanistan. It merely changed fronts.
From there, Zelensky made his way to the Hill, where he addressed a joint session of Congress as lawmakers consider a $1.7 trillion omnibus package that would allocate $45 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus, which allocates $858 billion for military spending and another $772 billion for domestic programs through the end of the current fiscal year next September, is the result of negotiations between Senate leadership of both parties. Senate Democrats needed to ensure enough Republican support to escape the filibuster. The typical Republican concerns about government spending levels forced Democrats to concede spending increases on domestic programs such as health and education, as well as more Covid-19 emergency funding and a debt-cap raise before next year’s deadline.
The total U.S. commitment to Ukraine will surpass $100 billion over the last ten months if Congress passes the omnibus package. Like the recent NDAA negotiations, the $45 billion negotiated by Congress is more aid for Ukraine than the White House asked for. The White House’s number was still a staggering $37.7 billion.
And Zelensky’s address to Congress was the ultimate whipping tool. Pelosi begged members of Congress who have stayed home thanks to proxy voting and Zoom hearings to actually show their faces. Regime journalists looked for members who refused to applaud Zelensky, and posted their pictures on social media to try and shame them into voting for the omnibus and Ukraine aid. The whole production sought to prey on the sympathy of weak members. If you don’t support $1.7 trillion in government spending, Ukrainian blood is on your hands. Not much was said about how the Ukrainian aid, or the omnibus writ large, will actually improve the lives of everyday Americans.
Zelensky wasn’t afraid to go along with Congressional leadership’s pressure campaign. “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” the Ukrainian president said. But, as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said on air Wednesday night, “Really, what are the returns on that?” One can almost hear the military-industrial complex reply, “high.”
With no clear American interest in the conflict, U.S. aid to Ukraine is charity. Zelensky would be wise to remember it. Zelensky’s entire government would be insolvent without U.S. taxpayer dollars. Yet he offered a half-hearted thank you and made more demands, and our politicians stood and applauded with glazed looks on their faces.
Thank you, sir. May I have another? What's wrong with us? What's wrong with our leaders?
Nevertheless, in a Tuesday press briefing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s “pretty proud of the fact that with a Democratic president, Democratic House, and Democratic Senate, we were able to achieve through this Omnibus spending bill essentially all of our priorities." Indeed, the uniparty is well at work.
A small group of Republican lawmakers, however, don’t see it McConnell’s way. Their concerns are more than just the $1.7 trillion price tag or the $45 billion price tag for Ukraine. These Republicans are rightfully casting doubt on the entire process.
Democratic and Republican leadership dropped the legislation, which spans 4,155 pages, in the dead of night. After the bill’s text was released at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, lawmakers not intimately involved with the negotiation process started scrambling to uncover exactly what is in the bill. Congress must vote to approve the legislation by Friday at midnight to avoid a government shutdown in the wake of a continuing resolution that gave Congress until December 23 to negotiate and pass the $1.7 trillion package.
Going forward with a massive omnibus negotiated behind closed doors with just days for lawmakers to consider the package or risk a government shutdown is even more absurd when one considers Republicans could have pushed for another continuing resolution. A continuing resolution could table the appropriations debate to the new year. Then, Republicans could have used their House majority, though slim, to squeeze more concessions from Democrats.
No, Republican leadership is committed to principled loserdom, from codifying gay marriage or the current omnibus—all in a lame duck session no less. They give a Democrat-controlled government victory after victory and expect Republican voters to cheer because, as McConnell said, they negotiated marginal cuts to domestic programs and were able to secure more defense funding for the blob’s current and future wars of choice.
Democrats are happy to let McConnell hold a few different feigned concerns over his own party’s head—whether it’s adequately supporting the troops, fear about government debt or the prospect of a government shutdown—so Republicans go along with a grab-bag of liberal priorities.
The bipartisan omnibus isn’t just committed to maintaining Ukraine’s borders. It also provides $410 million for Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman. At the same time, the omnibus explicitly prevents funding allocated to Customs and Border Patrol “to acquire, maintain, or extend border security technology and capabilities.”
According to a tweet thread from Republican North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop, another $1.4 billion is allocated for America’s membership in international institutions such as the United Nations.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are prominently featured in the omnibus as well. The House of Representatives’ Office of Diversity and Inclusion is funded to the tune of $26 million. The National Institutes of Health will receive $524.4 million for a DEI and “structural racism” subdivision. The Equity Institute, which hosts training sessions to create “more equitable, diverse, inclusive, antiracist, and accessible learning and professional environments,” according to its website, is allocated $477,000 for further developing its antiracism curriculum. The omnibus also affirms its commitment to keep DEI America’s chief cultural export by supporting gender equity programs in Pakistan and another $200 million for a gender equity fund.
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There’s also $286 million in Title X funding, which covers Planned Parenthood, and at least $575 million for “family planning” (i.e., abortion) in areas where population growth “threatens biodiversity.”
The EPA gets more than $10 billion; environmental justice gets $108 million. The FBI gets more than $11 billion, and $375 million for a new headquarters. The ATF gets nearly $2 billion. There’s also $3 million for bee-friendly highways, $3 million for New York City’s LGBTQ+ museum, $3.6 million for the creation of the "Michelle Obama Trail.” The omnibus also authorizes the construction of a federal building named after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a "Ukrainian Independence Park" in Washington, D.C.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus is stuffed with more pork than a butcher’s shop. Zelensky, McConnell, and Pelosi are preparing to feast on that fine Christmas ham, all on your dime.