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Government Shutdown 2024 Looms as Congressional Leaders Navigate Divisions on Ukraine Aid and Border Crisis

As the clock ticks down to the looming deadline, Congressional leaders find themselves entangled in a web of negotiations, attempting to avert a partial government shutdown by Friday. However, the optimism expressed by leaders following an Oval Office meeting on Tuesday is tempered by the persistent divide over Ukraine funding and the escalating crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The hour-long meeting, which took place on Tuesday, focused on three critical issues that have stirred tension within Congress. Firstly, the passage of annual bills essential for government funding, secondly, an emergency funding bill encompassing aid to Ukraine and Israel, and thirdly, addressing the surge of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, emerged from the meeting emphasizing the need to prioritize addressing the situation at the southern border. Johnson insisted that securing America’s needs must take precedence, seemingly placing the funding for Ukraine on the back burner. The House Speaker contended that while Ukraine funding would be considered “in a timely manner,” immediate action was imperative to address the crisis at the border.

Earlier this month, the Senate had reached a bipartisan deal, including funding for Ukraine and addressing national security priorities, with specific measures aimed at managing the border crisis. However, Republican leaders in the House, including former President Donald Trump, have resisted holding a vote on this comprehensive package.

Johnson’s stance aligns with Trump’s opposition to the Senate-backed bill, highlighting the internal divisions within the Republican party. The former President, currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the upcoming presidential election, is slated to address the border situation in Texas on Thursday.

President Joe Biden, who is grappling with the dual challenges of securing government funding and managing the border crisis, is set to travel to Brownsville, Texas, on Thursday. Biden has expressed his commitment to exploring executive actions to control the flow of migrants, but challenges related to existing laws and funding constraints remain.

The impasse over critical legislation, compounded by the divergent priorities of Congressional leaders, raises the specter of a partial government shutdown. The deadline for action is set for the end of Friday, and with the latest developments indicating limited progress, concerns are growing over the potential consequences.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the Tuesday talks as “intense,” with Democrats pushing for Ukraine funding amid broader negotiations. Despite expressing optimism, House Speaker Johnson’s emphasis on addressing the border crisis highlights the ongoing struggle to find common ground.

As the Senate and House navigate their differences, a standoff is brewing over potential policy riders sought by hardline conservatives in the House. These include measures such as defunding climate change programs, blocking Pentagon reimbursements for service members’ abortion-related travel costs, and zeroing out the salary of the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell underscored the stakes, warning that failure to meet the Friday deadline could result in disruptions to agriculture, transportation, military construction, and essential services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Schumer, in a letter over the weekend, expressed disappointment in the delay caused by House Republicans, urging them to get serious about averting a shutdown. He warned of the economic, safety, and cost implications that a government shutdown could inflict on the American people.

As of March 2, funding for key departments, including Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Transportation, would lapse if an agreement is not reached. The rest of the government is funded through March 8, heightening the urgency for Congressional leaders to find common ground and avert a Government Shutdown in 2024.