WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Sunday pressed congressional Republicans to back a bill to provide more aid to Ukraine, saying he was “sick and tired” of the political brinkmanship that nearly led to a government shutdown.
Biden spoke after Congress passed a stopgap bill on Saturday that extended government funding for more than a month and avoided a shutdown that would have left most of the federal government’s more than 4 million employees without a paycheck and cut a wide range of services.
The bill, which lasts through Nov 17, did not include aid for Kyiv. The US has been a major supporter of Ukraine after Russia invaded it last year. Biden said Republicans had pledged to provide that aid through a separate vote.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow Americas support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the speaker to keep his commitment to secure the passage and support needed to help Ukraine as they defend themselves against aggression and brutality,” he told reporters at the White House.
McCarthy confident of defeating moves for his ouster
Asked if he could trust Kevin McCarthy to honour deals, Biden said: “We just made one about Ukraine, so well find out.” A White House official said Biden was referring to Republican promises of passing a separate bill on the issue.
Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Washington last month that strong US support for his war to repel Russian invaders would be maintained despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers.
Biden urged Republicans to move ahead quickly to avoid another crisis in November. “The brinkmanship has to end. And there shouldnt be another ... crisis,” he said. “I strongly urge my Republican friends in Congress not to wait. Honour the deal we made a few months ago.”
The bill, which passed with broad Democratic and Republican support, sparked one lawmaker to pledge to oust the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy .
A leading hardline Republican said on Sunday he would move to oust McCarthy as House speaker for striking the deal with Democrats. “I do intend to file a motion to vacate Speaker McCarthy this week,” Congressman Matt Gaetz told CNN. “I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid.” Gaetz is a leading figure within a small group of far-right Republican legislators who brought the government to the brink of shutdown with their refusal to adopt fresh federal funding without deep spending cuts.
Speaking to CNN, Gaetz acknowledged that, despite vocal anger on the left, Democrats could nonetheless back McCarthy as speaker, particularly after he brokered the bipartisan shutdown compromise.
“The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out,” Gaetz said. “Now, they probably will.”
McCarthy had only barely survived a bruising battle in January involving a record 15 rounds of voting to become the 55th speaker of the House of Representatives.
McCarthy was left extremely vulnerable to factions in his own party when Republicans won only a razor-thin majority in the House in last November’s midterm elections.
But he remained confident on Sunday he would not succumb to a motion to remove him, telling “Face the Nation” on CBS: “I will survive.” If Gaetz is “upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that fight,” McCarthy said. Pro-McCarthy Republicans are already vowing support for their leader.
Republican Mike Lawler said the disruption from a removal vote would only impede the work that Congress must now accomplish by mid-November if it hopes to make the next deadline.
Defending the shutdown deal, he told ABC’s This Week that “the only responsible thing to do was to keep the government open and funded while we complete our work.” But in a sneak preview of likely pushback from elements on the left, progressive lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she would “absolutely” vote to oust McCarthy, adding that it was “not up to Democrats to save Republicans from themselves.”
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023