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US President Joe Biden. Picture: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS
US President Joe Biden. Picture: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS

Washington — US President Joe Biden on Monday said he is willing to meet House of Representatives speaker Mike Johnson to discuss a funding bill for Ukraine’s war against Russia, saying that Republicans are making a mistake by opposing the aid package.

The Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this month passed a $95bn aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but Johnson so far has declined even to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 219-212 margin. He has been demanding a meeting with Biden.

“Sure I’d be happy to meet with him, if he has anything to say,” Biden said.

Speaking to reporters as he returned to the White House from a weekend in Delaware, Biden said Republicans are making a big mistake by opposing aid to Ukraine for use in its war to repel Russian invaders.

Congress is not due back in Washington until February 28, when it will face an urgent deadline to avert a partial government shutdown that would begin March 1 absent action by legislators. Some legislators have been discussing alternate bills or paths to bypass Johnson’s objections, but those alternates all carry their own uncertainties.

Biden, who has been sharply critical of his likely election rival Donald Trump and other Republicans for threatening to not defend Nato allies if they do not pay enough for the common defence, said Republicans are making a big mistake by “walking away from the threat of Russia” and “walking away from Nato”.

“It’s just shocking,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Biden said he hoped that the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Russian penal colony in the Arctic region last Friday will spur Republicans to support the aid for Ukraine but said, “I’m not sure” it will make a difference.

Biden also said the US is considering more sanctions to impose on Russia for Navalny’s death.

“We already have sanctions, but we are considering additional sanctions, yes,” he said.

Biden on Friday blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death and warned there could be consequences, saying he was “not surprised” but “outraged” by the opposition leader’s passing.

Reuters

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