Biden urges Congress to prevent a government shutdown and send ‘urgent’ aid to Ukraine and Israel

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Biden urges Congress to prevent a government shutdown and send ‘urgent’ aid to Ukraine and Israel



February 27, 2024

President Biden met with Congress’s top four leaders on Tuesday to urge them to act quickly to avoid a looming government shutdown early next month and approve emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Biden hosted House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Vice President Kamala Harris was also in attendance.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden invited the leaders to the Oval Office meeting because he wants to ensure that U.S. national security interests come first.” She said those interests include continuing to fund the government.

Look, what the president wants to see is that we want to make sure that the national security interests of the American people come first, right? she said on Monday as Biden flew to New York. It’s not used as a political football, right? We want to make sure that happens.

And we also want to see that the government is not closed, Jean-Pierre said, adding that keeping the government open and functioning is a fundamental priority of Congress.

The Senate’s two top leaders also urged that the government remain open. Parts of the government could start scaling back activities as early as Friday unless a spending deal is reached and legislation is sent to Biden for signature.

Schumer, speaking at the Senate floor ahead of the White House meeting, said he hoped it would be an important, timely and fruitful discussion and urged Johnson to reject the demands of hardline conservatives.

We recognize that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is in a difficult position, but he must reject the hard right MAGA, who wants a shutdown, wants to hurt America and represents not the majority of Republicans in the House, but a majority of the Republicans in the Senate. and a majority of Republicans in America leave all Americans alone, Schumer said.

Schumer added that he will make a strong case to Johnson for why military aid to Ukraine is needed immediately.

Ukraine has a shortage of ammunition, anti-aircraft systems, ammunition and long-range artillery. This shortage creates asymmetry on the battlefield. Russia can shoot and disable Ukrainian targets, but Ukraine increasingly cannot fire back, Schumer said.

McConnell, in a speech to the Senate before the meeting, criticized Western countries for hesitating to help Ukraine, but pointed in particular to decisions during the Obama administration not to send military aid to Kiev.

The House of Representatives is under pressure under Johnson to pass the $95 billion national security package that boosts aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific. That measure cleared the Senate for a bipartisan 70-29 vote this month, but Johnson has resisted scheduling it for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Aside from the national security package, government funding for agriculture, transportation, military construction and some veterans services expires Friday. Funding for the rest of the government, including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, will expire a week later, on March 8.

AP writer Stephen Groves contributed.


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