US President Joe Biden warned top congressional leaders Tuesday of the dire cost of failing to help Ukraine, as high-stakes talks at the White House ended without a deal.

Biden called the rare Oval Office meeting to persuade Republican House speaker Mike Johnson to unblock vital aid for Kyiv, and avoid a government shutdown at home.

The leaders said they were optimistic they could keep the government's lights on -- but on Ukraine they remained deadlocked, with Johnson insisting on the need for more border reforms first.

"On Ukraine, I think the need is urgent," said Biden, who was flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris for the meeting in front of a crackling fire in the historic office.

He added that the "consequence of inaction every day in Ukraine is dire."

President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Ukraine desperately needs more Western support to defeat Russia's invasion, and voiced hope the United States would approve the stalled package that includes $60 billion of weapons and other aid.

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But Johnson, a Donald Trump ally who leads a razor-thin Republican majority in the House of Representatives, has refused to even allow a vote on a so-called supplemental funding bill containing the Ukraine aid.

Johnson, who also held a one-on-one meeting with Biden, insisted the crisis on the Mexican border was his priority.

He said the House would deal with the supplemental bill "in a timely manner, but again the first priority of the country is our border and making sure it's secure."

House Passes Ukraine Aid: How it Happened, What it Signifies
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House Passes Ukraine Aid: How it Happened, What it Signifies

What has happened during the last week in the US House of Representatives and what it means going forward.

- 'Lose the war' -

Biden met Johnson and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries, as well as the Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and opposition chief Mitch McConnell.

"It was the consensus in that room Zelensky and Ukraine will lose the war" without help, Schumer said.

The veteran senator, who recently visited Ukraine, said the Oval Office meeting was the "most intense" he had ever experienced.

Democrat Biden has already offered to include border reforms in the package but Republicans are holding out, with Trump urging them to hold firm.

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Trump, Biden's likely rival in November's presidential election, is pressuring his party to deny further Ukraine funding until the United States has addressed his own top campaign issue -- a surge in illegal immigration at the US-Mexican border.

Many Republicans, though, are believed to want to back Ukraine's fight.

"There is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor," Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told CNN.

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of 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.

The Senate has remained largely supportive and recently passed the package, pairing the Ukraine funding with help for Israel's military and for democratic Taiwan, that Johnson is refusing to allow to come to the House floor.

The White House meanwhile said the United States would not send troops to fight in Ukraine, after French President Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out the dispatch of Western forces.

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Biden "has been clear that the US will not send troops to fight in Ukraine," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The White House meeting also addressed 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.

Republican Johnson and the two Senate Democratic leaders all said they were "optimistic" of avoiding a shutdown.

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Comments ( 1)

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Lucy Price
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

You know I thought Trump was the reason why Johnson has not put bill to house but now I am wondering if there might be another reason. I do not trust Johnson to do what is right. He does and will have blood on his hands. No feeling for human life like Putin, Trump. He is making a huge mistake. He does not deserve the position of House Speaker. He does not represent the people of the US.

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