Congressional leaders leave ‘intense,’ ‘frank’ White House meeting with government shutdown threat growing

The top four congressional leaders left the White House on Tuesday after an “intense” sit-down with President Biden as the clock ticks down to a possible partial government shutdown at the end of this week.The lawmakers — House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — affirmed that all four were committed to finding some kind of deal on government funding by Friday but gave little insight into how they planned to do so.The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upcoming federal spending deadlines on March 1 and March 8, as well as the need to pass aid for Ukraine.Schumer described the discussions on government funding as “productive and intense,” and said he expressed that a short-term extension of fiscal year 2023’s funding, known as a continuing resolution (CR), might be needed to buy more time to reach a deal. CONGRESS LIKELY TO PUNT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN DEADLINES AGAIN, SOURCES SAYJeffries said the meeting was “honest” and “candid,” and that it included “firm discussions about the border.”Johnson, who met with Biden one-on-one after the main meeting concluded, called both conversations “frank and honest.””The speaker said unequivocally he wants to avoid a government shutdown,” Schumer said after the meeting. “We made it clear that that means not letting any of the government appropriations bills lapse, which means you need some CRs to get that done. But, we’re making good progress, and we’re hopeful we can get this done really quickly.”He said that while differences remain, they are not “insurmountable.”HOUSE GOP LEADERS JETTISON PROMISE TO VOTE ON 12 INDIVIDUAL SPENDING BILLSJohnson has not given any indication, however, that he would agree to put another CR on the floor after having said he was “done” with CRs in November. A government shutdown could mean government offices abruptly close and dozens of federal employees being furloughed — if it lasts beyond the weekend.”We have been working in good faith around the clock every single day, for months and weeks, and over the last several days, quite literally around the clock, to get that job done. We’re very optimistic,” Johnson said after the White House meeting.”I hope that the other leaders came out here and told you the same. We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown. And that’s our first responsibility.”The main tension in the meeting came from discussions about sending aid to Ukraine, Schumer later told reporters.”You could cut the intensity in that room with a knife,” he said.During the meeting, Johnson was cornered by the others in the room, including McConnell, the only other Republican present, according to Schumer.TOP HOUSE REPUBLICANS FLEE CAPITOL HILL AMID RISING CHAOS, DIVISION: ‘A BAD WORKPLACE'”The meeting, on Ukraine, was one of the most intense I have ever encountered in my many meetings in the Oval Office,” he recalled. “The five of us, the president, the vice president, Leader McConnell, Leader Jeffries and myself made it so 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.”He added, “And so we said to the speaker, get it done.”Schumer also suggested Johnson maintained that border security measures must be levied in exchange for a House vote on Ukraine aid, a position he’s been under pressure from his right flank to stick to.Echoing this, Johnson told reporters he made the border crisis a main focal point of his in the meeting. “When I showed up today my purpose was to express what I believe is that obvious truth. And that is we must take care of America’s needs first. When you talk about America’s needs, you need to talk further about our open border,” Johnson said.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”There’s a logic to solving the border,” Schumer countered. “We want to solve it, but we have to do Ukraine right now, because there’s a way that can get done quickly, because that has broad, bipartisan consensus. And the border will take some more work, which we’ll be happy to work on to get it done — but not hold up the Ukraine bill for it.”Senate and White House negotiators released a bipartisan deal on border security and foreign aid, including $60 billion for Ukraine earlier this year, but the effort died in the face of overwhelming criticism from Republicans who believed the border measures were inadequate.
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