Biden challenged by softening public support for arming Ukraine

With a razor-thin working majority, it is not clear whether he would allow another robust aid package to come to the floor for a vote and, if so, under what conditions, which is why Mr Zelensky wants to talk, as was reported by Punchbowl News.

Among those pushing Mr McCarthy to block future aid is Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a former QAnon adherent who has become a key ally since helping him win the speakership.

Speaking to Just the News, a conservative website, this week, Ms Greene said she opposed the war in Ukraine. “But you know who's driving it?” she asked. “It's America. America needs to stop pushing the war in Ukraine.”

While she and her allies have been on the margins of the Republican Party on Ukraine, the centre of gravity may be shifting.

Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Biden last week for visiting Kyiv instead of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a recent toxic train derailment. In a fundraising video, Mr Trump said, “We're teetering on the brink of World War III” thanks to Mr Biden and promised to “end the Ukraine conflict in 24 hours.”

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, his most formidable potential challenger for the 2024 nomination, sought to match Mr Trump, criticising what he called the “open-ended blank cheque” for Ukraine and saying “I don't think it's in our interest” to be involved in the for territory seized by Russia.

By contrast, the announced and unannounced Republican presidential candidates who do support aid to Ukraine, like former Vice-President Mike Pence and Ms Nikki Haley, the former to the United Nations, trail far behind those two front-runners.

So far, Congress has approved US$113 billion (S$151.94 billion) in military, economic, humanitarian and other aid for Ukraine, not all of which has been spent.

Anticipating trouble from the new Republican House, the White House and Democratic majority last winter pushed through an aid package large enough to last until summer. At the current rate of spending, it would run out by mid-July, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

A House Democrat who asked not to be identified speaking critically of the White House expressed concern that the president's team did not fully grasp how Americans viewed the aid.

While they support Ukraine in principle, this Democrat said, the way the aid has been doled out through a drumbeat of announcements of another US$500 million or US$1 billion every week or two exacerbates the sense that endless funds are heading out of the country.

Mr Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia scholar and former State Department counsellor, said military aid was more popular than economic aid because much of it is actually spent on arms produced by US defence firms.

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