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Washington preparing for possible Zelenskyy visit Wednesday

The White House and Capitol Hill are working to welcome the Ukrainian president, who could address a joint session of Congress if all proceeds as planned, sources said.

WASHINGTON — Officials in Washington are preparing for a possible visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, according to five sources familiar with the planning.

Zelenskyy could address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening, three sources said. The five sources stressed that the plans were contingent on security and could still change. 

Punchbowl News first reported the anticipated visit.

U.S. Capitol Police have been preparing for the possible visit, with leaders joining State Department agents and emergency management personnel on a walk-through Tuesday, said a source familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive plans.

A European official also familiar with the planning confirmed that preparations are underway for a potential visit Wednesday.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested members attend Wednesday's session in person in a letter to colleagues Tuesday.

“We are ending a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that makes progress for the American people as well as support for our Democracy,” Pelosi said in the letter. “Please be present for a very special focus on Democracy Wednesday night.” 

Pelosi would not confirm the trip when asked for comment. She said she had invited Zelenskyy, describing him as a "total hero."

Weeks after the war began in March, Zelenskyy made an emotional virtual address to Congress asking for support with more aggressive measures to curb the conflict.

“Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelenskyy said in his 16-minute appeal to lawmakers from Kyiv, which cast the war as a fight for global democracy and human rights.

Some Republicans have grown increasingly critical of Ukraine aid, some of them threatening that they won’t continue backing additional support as their party prepares to control the House in January.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who voted against a measure this year to end normal trade relations with Russia as punishment for attacking Ukraine, criticized the potential visit in a on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

"Of course the shadow president has to come to Congress and explain why he needs billions of American’s taxpayer dollars for the 51st state, Ukraine," Greene wrote. "This is absurd. Put America First!!!"

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told reporters that hearing directly from Zelenskyy about the struggle of his people should encourage Republicans reluctant to support Ukraine to think twice. 

“It is always preferable to have him here or to hear from him There’s no question about that,” Casey said. “Any Republican who’s going to vote against money for Ukraine should be and will be the subject of harsh criticism.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., also argued that a direct appeal from Zelenskyy could shore up support.

“President Zelenskyy needs to look the American people in the eye and explain in a larger sense what the struggle is all about. I think in coming to America, it would also help strengthen the spine of our colleagues here and in Europe,” Kennedy told reporters. “We’ve got to all stick together on this.”

Congress on Tuesday drew close to approving $44.9 billion in aid to bolster Ukraine’s efforts in the war with Russia, which has stretched nearly 10 months. 

The aid is tucked into a sprawling $1.7 trillion government funding package Congress unveiled early Tuesday to fund federal agencies through next fall.