US President Joe Biden has 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 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 four million employees without a pay cheque and cut a wide range of services.
The bill, which passed with broad Democratic and Republican support, sparked one legislator to pledge to remove the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.
The bill, which lasts through November 17, did not include aid for Kiev. The US 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 said at the White House.
Asked if he could trust McCarthy to honour 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 US support for his war to repel Russian invaders would be maintained despite opposition from some Republican legislators.
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. Honour 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.
McCarthy said he expected to survive a threat to his speakership after a hardline critic within his party called for his removal following the passage of the stopgap government funding bill that drew more support from Democrats than Republicans.
Hardline Republican Representative Matt Gaetz told multiple US media outlets he would file a ‘motion to vacate’, a call for a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker, testing McCarthy’s support in the House of Representatives, which his party controls by a narrow 221-212 margin.
“I’ll survive,” McCarthy said on CBS. “This is personal with Gaetz.”
Gaetz is one of a group of about two dozen hardliners who forced McCarthy to endure a withering 15 rounds of voting in January before he was elected speaker, during which they squeezed out concessions, including a rule change to allow any one House member to call for a vote to remove the speaker.
It was not clear how much support McCarthy would have in such a vote, or whether any Democrats would back him. McCarthy angered Democrats last month by launching an impeachment inquiry of Biden.
“If at this time next week Kevin McCarthy is still speaker of the House, it will be because Democrats bailed him out,” Gaetz said in an interview on ABC. “I am relentless and I will continue to pursue this objective.”
McCarthy stunned Washington on Saturday when he backed a bill to fund the government through November 17, averting a partial shutdown but not imposing any of the spending cuts or changes to border security that his hardline colleagues had called for.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate on a broad bipartisan basis and signed into law by Biden, is meant to give legislators more time to agree on a deal to fund the government through September 30, 2024.
The removal of the speaker would complicate that process.
“It is destructive to the country to put forth this motion to vacate,” Representative Mike Lawler, a Republican, said on ABC. “By putting this motion to vacate on the floor, you know what Matt Gaetz is going to do? He is going to delay the ability to complete that work over the next 45 days.”