Speaker Johnson Bullied At White House Meeting

In a recent meeting at the White House, three of Congress’s top leaders delivered a strong and unified message to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.): prioritize the needs of the American public and avoid a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) expressed their concerns to Johnson, emphasizing the negative impact a government shutdown would have on the American people.

The meeting was described as “intense” and “passionate,” with participants, including President Biden and Vice President Harris, stressing the importance of funding the government to address various critical areas. Negotiations are underway for appropriations bills that would provide funding for federal departments and agencies such as the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development—failure to pass these bills before the March 1 deadline would result in a funding lapse.

Jeffries expressed cautious optimism despite the urgency, believing that progress is being made and that a government shutdown can be avoided with timely action. However, he also acknowledged the possibility of passing a stopgap spending measure to provide negotiators with additional time to reach a deal for funding the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and other agencies by the March 8 deadline.

The White House meeting aimed to pressure Johnson, with leaders from both sides of the aisle urging him to take bipartisan action to keep the government open. It was clear that passing a Senate-approved foreign aid package, including $60 billion for Ukraine, was also a priority. McConnell highlighted the urgency of providing military aid to Ukraine, emphasizing the need to prevent Russia from gaining further ground.

While Johnson may face pressure from House conservatives on policy riders, finding common ground and avoiding a government shutdown is essential. Senate Republicans and Democrats agree that a shutdown would not only be detrimental to policy and political grounds but also hinder the basic functioning of government. The focus should be on moving quickly and passing the necessary legislation to ensure the government remains funded.

Johnson expressed optimism about avoiding a shutdown, highlighting the ongoing efforts and commitment to reaching an agreement. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the need to set aside extreme demands that could derail the legislation. The goal is to make progress on the bills and ensure a few far-right extremists do not compromise the government’s basic functioning.