House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a bipartisan glow about them Wednesday after they and other congressional leaders met with President Joe Biden, where they discussed Ukraine aid, border security, and elements of a deadlocked funding package.
“We had a productive meeting,” Johnson, R-La., told reporters minutes after the White House sitdown ended.
“We understand that all these things are important, but we must insist, we must insist that the border be the top priority,” the speaker said. “I think we have some consensus around that table.”
Schumer, D-N.Y., said the meeting showed there was agreement between Democrats and Republicans that additional aid for Ukraine and improved U.S. border security are necessary.
“The only way we will do border and Ukraine, or even either of them, is bipartisan,” Schumer said. “Any party that says do it my way or no way, we’re not going to get anything done.”
The meeting, which lasted over an hour, also was attended by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and various congressional committee chairmen and ranking members.
The collaborative sentiment expressed by Johnson and Schumer could signal hope for Biden’s supplemental aid package, which would provide funding to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S. southern border.
McConnell on Wednesday said a Senate floor vote on the supplemental package could be held next week, after a months-long stalemate in Congress.
But the bipartisan message could be a liability for Johnson.
Johnson’s predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted by that clique after and because of his cooperation with Democrats to pass a short-term spending measure, which avoided a federal government shutdown.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a conservative, has already warned that a motion to boot Johnson is “on the table,” after the speaker announced a bipartisan deal to approve a federal budget that would spend up to nearly $1.6 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, Congress is busy this week trying to pass yet another short-term spending resolution by Friday to prevent a government shutdown.
Biden initially requested a $105 billion supplemental funding package from Congress in October to aid Israel and Ukraine in their respective wars, along with securing Taiwan’s defense systems and the U.S. southern border.
In the ensuing months, the bill has remained at a stalemate in Congress though Biden has tried several times to turn up the pressure. Johnson and Biden spoke on the phone last week about border security, which has become a primary sticking point in the negotiations.
“Congress, don’t delay. Pass my national security supplemental. The time to act is now,” the president wrote in a Wednesday social media post.
Congressional Republicans demanded more funding for the southern border and less for Ukraine. Democrats have stood by the need for sustaining Ukraine aid, arguing that a Russian victory would pose broader threats to the state of global democracy.
Biden has used up the last of his executive funding bucket for Ukraine. The last security assistance package to Ukraine was authorized on Dec. 27, according to National Security Spokesman John Kirby. There is no more U.S. money left for Ukraine until Congress passes the supplemental package.
“There’s no magic pot of money. If we don’t get that money, it’s a real problem. It’s a real problem for Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.