Biden to hold emergency White House talks as government shutdown looms again

Washington DC - President Joe Biden is hosting urgent talks with top Congress leaders at the White House Tuesday in a bid to unlock billions of dollars in stalled emergency aid to war-torn Ukraine and avert a looming government shutdown at home.

President Joe Biden will speak to congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday in the hope of passing a funding bill that includes billions in aid to Ukraine.
President Joe Biden will speak to congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday in the hope of passing a funding bill that includes billions in aid to Ukraine.  © REUTERS

The high-stakes showdown comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that his country desperately needs continued support from the West to defeat Russia and voiced hope the US would approve the $60 billion package.

As the war enters its third year, Moscow has mounted heavy attacks on Ukrainian troops struggling with an ammunition shortage caused by political wrangling over aid in the House of Representatives.

The White House said Biden will meet Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries, as well as the Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and opposition chief Mitch McConnell.

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"There is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN. "And that decision rests on the shoulders of one person – and history is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put that bill on the floor."

Fight to avert government shutdown continues

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to bring new spending bills to the floor.
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to bring new spending bills to the floor.  © REUTERS

The Senate recently passed a $95-billion package pairing the Ukraine funding with help for Israel's unceasing assault on Palestinians in Gaza, as well as for Taiwan.

But backing for Kyiv has dwindled among House Republicans, under pressure from the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump to deny further aid until the US has imposed even more draconian restrictions on immigrations at the southern border.

"Now is the time for action. Speaker Johnson cannot let politics or blind obeisance to Donald Trump get in the way," Schumer, who along with most Democrats and the White House is backing the crackdown on asylum seekers and migrants, said in a letter to colleagues.

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The White House meeting will also address a partial government shutdown looming Friday night, as Congress still hasn't approved the 12 annual spending bills that make up the federal budget, almost five months into the 2024 fiscal year.

Without a resolution, a full government shutdown would come the following Friday – a day after Biden's annual State of the Union address.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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