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Biden Summoning Congressional Leaders  02/26 06:08

   President Joe Biden will convene the top four congressional leaders at the 
White House on Tuesday to press lawmakers on passing an emergency aid package 
for Ukraine and Israel, as well as averting a looming government shutdown next 
month, according to a White House official.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden will convene the top four 
congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday to press lawmakers on 
passing an emergency aid package for Ukraine and Israel, as well as averting a 
looming government shutdown next month, according to a White House official.

   The top four leaders include House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., Senate 
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, 
D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

   During the meeting, the president will discuss the "urgency" of passing the 
aid package, which has bipartisan support, as well as legislation to keep the 
federal government operating through the end of September, said the White House 
official, who was granted anonymity to discuss a meeting not yet publicly 
confirmed.

   The Republican-led House is under pressure to pass the $95 billion national 
security package that bolsters aid for Ukraine, Israel as well as the 
Indo-Pacific. That legislation cleared the Senate on a 70-29 vote earlier this 
month, but Johnson has been resistant to putting up the aid bill for a vote in 
the House.

   "This is one of those instances where one person can bend the course of 
history. Speaker Johnson, if he put this bill on the floor, would produce a 
strong, bipartisan majority vote in favor of the aid to Ukraine," Jake 
Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said Sunday on ABC's "This 
Week."

   Sullivan stressed that Ukrainians need weapons and ammunition to fend off 
Russian forces, and that in his personal conversations with the speaker, he 
"has indicated that he would like to get the funding for Ukraine."

   Separate from the national security package, the first tranche of government 
funding is due to expire Friday. The rest of the federal government, including 
agencies such as the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and the State 
Department, expires on March 8.

   In a letter to his colleagues sent Sunday, Schumer said there was not yet an 
agreement to avoid a partial shutdown of the agencies whose funding expires 
this week. That includes the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban 
Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs.

   "While we had hoped to have legislation ready this weekend that would give 
ample time for members to review the text, it is clear now that House 
Republicans need more time to sort themselves out," Schumer wrote in the 
letter. The Senate majority leader called on Johnson to "step up to once again 
buck the extremists in his caucus and do the right thing" by greenlighting 
funding to keep the government open.

   Johnson said Schumer's letter was "counterproductive" and said Democrats 
were pushing their own unrealistic policy demands.

   "This is not a time for petty politics," Johnson said in a statement. "House 
Republicans will continue to work in good faith and hope to reach an outcome as 
soon as possible, even as we continue to insist that our own border security 
must be addressed immediately."

 
 
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