UNITED STATES NEWS

Biden and party leaders implore Speaker Johnson to help Ukraine in ‘intense’ Oval Office meeting

Feb 26, 2024, 10:07 PM | Updated: Feb 27, 2024, 2:24 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders emerged from an “intense” Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday speaking optimistically about the prospects for avoiding a partial government shutdown, but with new uncertainty about aid for Ukraine and Israel as the president and others urgently warned Speaker Mike Johnson of the grave consequences of delay.

Biden called the leaders to the White House in hopes of making progress against a legislative logjam on Capitol Hill that has major ramifications not just for the U.S. but for the world as Ukraine struggles to repel Russia’s invasion with weapons and ammunition starting to run short.

“The need is urgent,” Biden said of the Ukraine aid. “The consequences of inaction every day in Ukraine are dire.”

Biden hosted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Oval Office along with Republican House Speaker Johnson and Vice President Kamala Harris. After the more than hour-long meeting, Biden pulled Johnson aside for a private conversation.

Democratic leaders upon exiting the meeting were blunt about the dangers Ukraine is facing.

“We said to the speaker, ‘get it done,” said Schumer. “I said I’ve been around here a long time, it’s maybe four or five times that history is looking over your shoulder and if you don’t do the right thing, whatever the immediate politics are, you will regret it.

Referring to Johnson, he said, “Really, it’s in his hands. It’s in his hands.”

Schumer, who was joined by Jeffries in describing how the meeting went, called the session “one of the most intense I’ve ever encountered” in the Oval Office.

Johnson spoke to reporters on his own, without Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell by his side. McConnell voted for a $95 billion foreign aid bill earlier this month that would aid Ukraine and Israel, replenish U.S. defense systems and provide humanitarian assistance for Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other populations caught in conflict zones. The bill passed the Senate 70-29, but the Republican-led House has not acted on it, despite pleas from McConnell and others for action.

Johnson, who rejected a U.S. Mexico border security compromise that was eventually stripped from the final product, signaled no change in his position on Ukraine aid. He said the Senate’s package “does nothing” to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, the GOP’s demand in return for helping Ukraine.

“The first priority of the country is our border, and making it secure,” Johnson said.

The speaker’s continued call for border changes has frustrated senators, who spent months negotiating a bipartisan border deal only to have House Republicans reject it at the urging of former President Donald Trump. The bill would have denied migrants the ability to apply for asylum at the border if the number of daily crossings became unmanageable for authorities, among other major changes.

“It’s time for action” Johnson said of the border. “It is a catastrophe, and it must stop.”

Schumer said Democrats, too, want to tackle the problems at the U.S-Mexico border, but that it will take time and “we have to do Ukraine right now.” He said he discussed during the meeting his visit last week to Ukraine with other lawmakers and recounted the agonizing stories told by soldiers who have no ammunition left to fire.

In the meeting, “we made it clear how vital this was to the United States. This was so, so important, and that we couldn’t afford to wait a month or two months or three months, because we would in all likelihood lose the war, NATO would be fractured at best, allies would turn away from the United States, and the boldest leaders, the boldest autocrats of the world … would be emboldened,” he said.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns also joined Tuesday’s meeting. Burns has played key roles coordinating the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

McConnell upon returning from the meeting called on the House to take up the Senate-passed bill. Many supporters of the bill predict that it would pass overwhelmingly on the House floor if Johnson were to bring it up for a vote, but doing so would risk enormous blowback from some in his conference who don’t support any more help for Ukraine. Some have even threatened his job if he allows the bill to pass.

“We don’t want the Russians to win in Ukraine and so we have a time problem here. And the best way to move quickly and get the bill to the president would be for the House to take up the Senate bill,” McConnell said.

Apart from the national security package, government funding for agriculture, transportation, military construction and some veterans’ services expires Friday. And funding for the rest of the government, including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, expires a week later, on March 8, the day after Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address.

“It’s Congress responsibility to fund the government,” Biden said. “A government shutdown would damage the economy significantly. We need a bipartisan solution.”

The congressional leaders seemed more hopeful that they would be able to prevent any shutdown, though it may require another short-term extension to be passed this week.

“We are making real progress on the appropriations bills that are scheduled to lapse on March 1,” Jeffries said. “And I’m cautiously optimistic that we can do what is necessary within the next day or so to close down these bills and avoid a government shutdown.”

“We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown. And that’s our first responsibility,” Johnson said.

——

Associated Press reporters Stephen Groves and Will Weissert contributed.

United States News

FILE - San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris poses for a portrait in San Francisco, June 18...

Associated Press

Vice President Kamala Harris leads list of contenders for spots on the Democratic ticket

President Joe Biden’s decision to step down as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president opens the door for other contenders to become the Democratic nominee in November. The president has thrown his support behind Vice President Kamala Harris, and other prominent Democrats moved quickly to rally around her candidacy, but it’s unclear just how smooth […]

5 minutes ago

Associated Press

Alaska police and US Coast Guard searching for missing plane with 3 people onboard

Alaska authorities are conducting a search for a missing airplane with three people onboard. Alaska State Troopers received a report from the U.S. Coast Guard of a missing plane shortly before 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement. The single-propeller, 1948 Beach Craft Bonanza was flying near Mount Crillon […]

9 minutes ago

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, arrives to speak at a campaign event ...

Associated Press

JD Vance makes solo debut as GOP vice presidential candidate with Monday rallies in Virginia, Ohio

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — To move overnight to set up Monday rally. Republican JD Vance will make his first solo appearances on the campaign trail Monday, a day after the 2024 presidential race was thrown into upheaval as President Joe Biden dropped out of the race, making the Democratic candidate an open question. Vance, an […]

12 minutes ago

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and President Joe Biden arrive for an event in the East ...

Associated Press

Takeaways from a day that fundamentally changed the presidential race

President Joe Biden’s abrupt decision to bow out of the presidential race and endorse Vice President Kamala Harris to be the Democratic candidate against former President Donald Trump caused a political earthquake on Sunday. It also changes the contours of a presidential race — which most voters said they did not want to see — […]

15 minutes ago

FILE - Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is seen on Capitol Hill, Jan. 10, 2017, in Washington. She's al...

Associated Press

Harris looks to lock up Democratic nomination after Biden steps aside, reordering 2024 race

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris moved swiftly to lock up Democratic delegates behind her campaign for the White House after President Joe Biden stepped aside amid concerns from within their own party that he would be unable to defeat Donald Trump. Biden’s exit Sunday, prompted by Democratic worries over his fitness for office, […]

16 minutes ago

FILE - This April 18, 2024, photo released by the Utah Department of Corrections shows death row in...

Associated Press

Utah death row inmate who is imprisoned for 1998 murder asks parole board for mercy ahead of hearing

Utah officials are set hear testimony Monday about whether a man facing execution next month should be spared the death penalty for a 1998 murder and remain imprisoned for life. The parole board hearing comes after state officials said Saturday that they no longer planned to use an untested combination of execution drugs that Taberon […]

27 minutes ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Biden and party leaders implore Speaker Johnson to help Ukraine in ‘intense’ Oval Office meeting