Biden Meets With ‘Big Four’ Congressional Leaders Over Ukraine Aid, Shutdown

Biden Meets With ‘Big Four’ Congressional Leaders Over Ukraine Aid, Shutdown

As lawmakers have days to strike an agreement to avert a partial government shutdown on Friday, President Biden has called a meeting with the ‘big four’ Congressional leaders to discuss how the United States can funnel more money to Ukraine, while also convincing lawmakers to strike a deal to keep the government’s lights on.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson at the Capitol on Feb. 13, 2024.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s remains in a dilemma – having to choose between a deal with Democrats to avoid a partial government shutdown, or side with the House Freedom Caucus who are happy to play chicken over a shutdown.

Last Friday, Johnson told members that another stopgap could be required to buy time while lawmakers iron out final details. That said, April 30 is a hard deadline for Democrats, who will refuse to support 1% across-the-board funding cuts that kick in after that date.

Johnson is caught between House conservatives opposed to further spending, and establishment-loyal military hawks who want to avoid defense cuts that would be triggered if Congress fails to enact new full-year spending appropriations by April 30. The conservative Freedom caucus, meanwhile, has no problem with a shutdown that would bring the country closer to those 1% cuts.

According to Axios, GOP members are pessimistic about today’s White House meeting, while the WSJ suggests that such White House summits “tend to be more stagecraft than statecraft—high-profile opportunities for both sides to show they are fighting for their parties’ priorities, rather than nitty-gritty policy negotiations.”

For months, the Republican House and Democratic Senate have deferred on Congress’s responsibility to set new spending levels and priorities for the federal government for fiscal year 2024, instead passing a series of stopgap measures by repeatedly extending spending levels set back in December 2022.

Now once again time is running out. In the coming hours or days, Johnson could seal a deal with congressional Democrats and try to pass fresh full-year spending legislation. Two thirds of lawmakers would need to approve it. Johnson could put it off a few days or weeks with a short-term patch, again with Democrats’ help. Or he could try to rely on his narrow and rebellious Republican majority to pass another stopgap bill through September, triggering automatic across-the-board spending cuts. –WSJ

“In less than a week, the federal government will begin to shut down, unless both sides—both sides—work together to extend funding,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a Monday floor speech. “Meanwhile, the moral obligation for Congress to help the people of Ukraine, and fortify our own national security, grows heavier with each passing day.”

Johnson said Schumer was playing “petty politics,” and that the House “has worked nonstop, and is continuing to work in good faith, to reach agreement with the Senate on compromise government funding bills in advance of the deadlines.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is followed by reporters as he leaves the office of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the Capitol Building in Washington on Feb. 26, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisted that GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber are “not going to allow the government to shut down.”

“Shutting down the government is harmful to the country. And it never produces positive outcomes—on policy or politics,” McConnell said in Monday remarks.

As the Epoch Times notes further; Mr. McConnell warned that without a swift resolution by Friday, the nation could experience disruptions across vital sectors, including agriculture, transportation, military construction, and essential services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Senate Republican leader said that a government shutdown is entirely avoidable, citing the Senate’s passage of the first full-year spending package for critical areas last November.

We have the means—and just enough time this week—to avoid a shutdown and to make serious headway on annual appropriations,” Mr. McConnell said. However, he stressed that it requires lawmakers to work together to achieve “clean appropriations” and avoid “poison pills.”

The veteran GOP leader, noting the significance of the matter, said that millions of Americans would be closely monitoring Congress’s actions this week.

“American farmers and ranchers, like the Kentuckians visiting Washington this week, expect us to take the challenges they face in feeding our nation seriously,” he said.

“Veterans who swore to protect and defend expect us to keep our promise to care for them when they return home. In the coming days, we’ll need to do just that.”

Roadblocks may come in the GOP-led House.

The sticking points in the political standoff are President Joe Biden’s contentious request for billions of dollars for Ukraine and Israel and concessions sought by hardline Republicans, including on U.S. border security, which has been an issue of bipartisan concern.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a bill to fund the federal government for the fiscal year that included $95 billion for Ukraine and Israel aid but not for the southern U.S. border. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) declared the bill dead on arrival in the lower chamber.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president intends to urge a deal to keep the government funded beyond Friday and continue his advocacy for billions of dollars to be provided to Ukraine and Israel.

“A basic, basic priority or duty of Congress is to keep the government open,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “So, that’s what the president wants to see. He’ll have those conversations.”

Last month, Congress passed a “continuing resolution,” a stopgap measure, to extend the deadline to pass its annual appropriations bills to March 1 and March 8 for the Senate and House, respectively. The CR meant that some government departments continued to be funded at current levels, including the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State, until Friday.

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Without the CR, government funding would have otherwise partially run out on Jan. 19. This was Congress’ third such short-term measure in four months.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/27/2024 – 12:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

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