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Biden presses Republicans after spending bill drops Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) – U.S. 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 passed with broad Democratic and Republican support, sparked one lawmaker to pledge to oust the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.

The bill, which lasts through Nov. 17, did not include aid for Kiev. The United States has been a major supporter of Ukraine after Russia invaded it last year, and Biden has sought to rally the world, as well as his own country, to maintain that support.

Biden said Republicans had pledged to provide that aid through a separate vote.

“We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s 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.

U.S. President Joe Biden makes a statement about the stopgap government funding bill passed by the U.S. House and Senate to avert a government shutdown at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 1, 2023. REUTERS/Bonnie Cash Acquire Licensing Rights

Asked if he could trust McCarthy to honor deals, Biden said: “We just made one about Ukraine, so we’ll 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 Zelenskiy during a visit to Washington last month that strong U.S. 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 shouldn’t be another … crisis,” he said. “I strongly urge my Republican friends in Congress not to wait. Don’t waste time as you did all summer. Pass a year-long budget agreement. Honor the deal we made a few months ago.”

Biden declined to weigh in on whether Democrats should support McCarthy if he needed their votes to keep his job as House speaker. The president said he would leave that to Democratic leaders in Congress to decide.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Jason Lange and Leah Douglas; editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA’s work was recognized with Deutsche Welle’s “Freedom of Speech Award.” Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.

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