Biden and Harris meet congressional leaders to try to avert government shutdown

<span>Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office on Tuesday.</span><span>Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office on Tuesday.Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris met congressional leaders on Tuesday in hopes of striking a deal to try to avert a government shutdown.

“We’re making good progress, and we’re hopeful we can get this done quickly,” the top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said after the meeting, adding that the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, “said unequivocally he wants to avoid a government shutdown”.

Related: Republican cites 25th amendment in bid to remove ‘too old’ Biden from office

While the debacle over the government shutdown has been brewing for months, the 1 March deadline is different from the many similar instances that came before, in that it would herald only a partial government shutdown, with the legislation funding departments including agriculture, transportation and veteran affairs expiring on Friday. The rest of the shutdown is scheduled for 8 March.

The meeting was scheduled for late morning with Johnson, the Democratic House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, Schumer and the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

At the top of the meeting, Biden warned that a government shutdown would “significantly” damage the nation’s economy, which saw strong growth last year despite tenacious inflation and high interest rates.

The group pressed Johnson to support further aid to Ukraine, a discussion Schumer noted was particularly “intense”.

McConnell along with Biden and Congress’s top Democrats are all supporters of aid to Ukraine, but Johnson has waffled, even turning down a package of hardline immigration policy changes Democrats had agreed to in order to win Republican support for Kyiv.

“The meeting on Ukraine was one of the most intense I’ve ever encountered in my many meetings in the Oval Office,” Schumer said. “We said to the speaker, ‘Get it done.’”

Johnson, meanwhile, told CNN the meeting was “frank and honest” and focused on the need for an immigration and border plan. This comes after House Republicans tanked bipartisan legislation that included border funding, alongside Ukraine and Israel aid – a move that has been attributed to Donald Trump’s pressure to not allow Democrats any wins in an election year.

The House reconvenes on Wednesday.