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After visit to Ukraine, McGovern tells of 'horrific' stories, says Congress will pass $33B package

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on April 30, 2022, in Kyiv. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the delegation.
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern's office
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on April 30, 2022, in Kyiv. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the delegation.

A congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Ukraine over the weekend to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among the visiting delegation was U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Worcester.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern: We had a great meeting with President Zelensky that lasted over 3 hours and we talked about a wide range of topics. It was substantive, it was intense, and my respect and admiration for him, but especially the Ukrainian people ... he's incredibly courageous and he is defying the odds.

Kari Njiiri, NEPM: Well, what did the discussions center on with President Zelensky?

Well, we talked about the realities of what is happening in Ukraine — the indiscriminate nature of Russia's attacks on the country, including targeting civilians in maternity hospitals, the mass graves. And while we were there, by the way, we also talked to individuals who are telling us about young girls being raped while their mothers were watching and some being sent off with human traffickers. I mean, it is horrific.

But we talked about what is needed. He talked about the need for additional security assistance, economic assistance and humanitarian assistance. I mean, there's millions of Ukrainians who are now refugees. There are countless Ukrainians who are internally displaced. So we talked about how we could be helpful, how the rest of the world could be helpful. But what was impressive to me was that President Zelensky strongly believes that at the end of all of this, Ukraine will prevail.

Over the weekend, while you were there, U.S Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois introduced a resolution that, if passed, would authorize President Biden to utilize U.S. forces to defend Ukraine if Russia uses chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Do you agree?

So my focus is on giving Ukraine what it needs to be able to prevail in this struggle against Russia. I have not been supportive of getting U.S. troops directly involved in a fight with Russian troops. I think President Biden has that same point of view.

Rather than jumping ahead to a hypothetical that hopefully will never happen, I think we ought to focus on what we can do right now.

What is Congress prepared to do at this point?

Well, Congress is going to pass this aid package either next week or the week after — $33 billion. That is what President Biden has asked for. We are putting the language together now and and I expect it will be passed. More assistance and more aid will be flowing to Ukraine, not only in terms of security assistance, but also in terms of humanitarian assistance as well.

On a separate note, Monday night, Politico published a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that — at the very least — suggests Roe v. Wade could be overturned. What's your reaction and what should Congress do?

Well, I'm disgusted by that. I'm disgusted that — if this report is true — a majority in the Supreme Court want to make abortion illegal and unsafe in many states in this country, that they want to attack a women's health issue. And they are doing this notwithstanding the fact that this is settled law, that there's been decades of precedent that they want to ignore, and also the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American people — not just Democrats, but independents and Republicans as well — believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.

But what Congress needs to do is figure out, you know, is there a way to be able to get the Senate to be able to vote up or down on codifying Roe v. Wade? Unfortunately, the filibuster has stood in the way. But can they get an agreement to have nobody object to at least a debate and a vote on this? And if not, then we ought to be looking at, how do you get rid of the filibuster?

But this is a very, very frightening decision, if indeed it turns out to be true. And it makes me frightened about what else might be coming, not only when it comes to a woman's right to choose, but in other matters as well.

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