US President Joe Biden hosts urgent talks with top Congress leaders at the White House Tuesday in a bid to unlock billions of dollars in stalled emergency aid to war-torn Ukraine and avert a looming government shutdown at home.

The high-stakes showdown comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that his country desperately needs continued support from the West to defeat Russia and voiced hope the United States would approve the $60 billion package.

As the war enters its third year, Moscow has mounted heavy attacks on Ukrainian troops struggling with an ammunition shortage caused by political wrangling over aid in the US House of Representatives.

The White House said Biden will meet Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries, as well as the Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and opposition chief Mitch McConnell.


"There is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN.

"And that decision rests on the shoulders of one person -- and history is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put that bill on the floor."

When Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, US lawmakers were overwhelmingly in favor of arming the pro-Western former Soviet republic, which denuclearized in the 1990s after gaining assurances from the West over its security.

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Between now and autumn, Ukraine is expected to battle Russian advances along a 1,000-kilometer front line, hoping recently supplied Western weapons and ammunition will help hold back Russian forces.

- 'Time for action' -

The Senate has remained largely supportive and recently passed a $95 billion package pairing the Ukraine funding with help for Israel's military and for democratic Taiwan.

But backing for Kyiv has dwindled among House Republicans, under pressure from presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump to deny further aid until the United States has addressed a surge in illegal immigration at its southern border.

"Now is the time for action. Speaker Johnson cannot let politics or blind obeisance to Donald Trump get in the way," Schumer, who led a trip to western Ukraine last week, said in a letter to colleagues.


The White House meeting will also address a partial government shutdown looming Friday night, as Congress still hasn't approved the 12 annual spending bills that make up the federal budget, almost five months into the 2024 fiscal year.

Without a resolution, a full government shutdown would come the following Friday -- a day after Biden's annual State of the Union address.

The two sides have been negotiating daily and had hoped to release the text on Sunday for the first four spending bills covering about a quarter of the budget, including agriculture, veterans, transport and housing.

- 'Untold pain' -

These are seen as the easier part, with the rest of the budget -- taking in more contentious areas of government such as law enforcement, defense and homeland security -- coming due on March 8.

But Johnson is under pressure from hard-liners demanding policy riders that are red lines for Democrats on abortion, guns, welfare, diversity programs, immigration and other contentious issues.

Biden cut a deal with Republicans last year mandating tens of billions of dollars in automatic cuts if lawmakers fail to pass full-year bills by April.


The party's right flank -- mostly figures in the 40-member Freedom Caucus -- has made no secret of the fact that it would be happy for that ax to fall.

The impasse has nevertheless triggered talks for another short-term "continuing resolution" -- keeping spending at current levels and kicking the can down the road for the fourth time since the fiscal year began.

"Unless Republicans get serious, the extreme Republican shutdown will endanger our economy, raise costs, lower safety and exact untold pain on the American people," Schumer said.

Johnson shot back that Democrats in the Senate were complicating talks with 11th-hour demands that were not previously included in their spending bills

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