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Biden to convene top four congressional leaders Tuesday as pressure builds for Ukraine aid

By Priscilla Alvarez and Sam Fossum, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden will convene the top four congressional leaders Tuesday as the White House ratchets up pressure on lawmakers to pass additional funding to Ukraine and ahead of a partial government shutdown deadline this week.

The meeting – which will include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries – comes at a pivotal moment following Johnson’s resistance to Ukraine aid.

Biden, who visited Ukraine last year, has repeatedly framed the need to support the country against Russia as a matter of national security abroad and at home. In the face of congressional inaction on a package that includes $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, the president has directed his team to make the consequences “abundantly clear,” a US official told CNN.

At the core of that message are the stakes of ceding ground to Russia and the dire situation Ukraine faces without more funding. Military analysis, intelligence and information from Ukrainians have prompted concerns within the Biden administration about Russia’s aggression and what it means on the battlefield.

“The outlook is a lot more bleak,” the US official said.

On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan called out Johnson by name in his push for the GOP-controlled House to pass Ukraine aid.

“There is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor, and that decision rests on the shoulders of one person, and history is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put that bill on the floor,” Sullivan told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

In private conversations, Biden has sought to reassure allies that he’s doing everything he can to support Ukraine, including on Saturday during a call with G7 leaders.

Johnson has signaled that he will not put the $95 billion Senate aid package – which includes $60 billion in Ukraine aid – on the floor in its current form as he faces pressure from his right flank.

In a statement earlier this month, the Louisiana Republican said a standalone foreign aid bill, without addressing US border security, was unacceptable. And Johnson privately told his colleagues before Congress left town for its nearly two-week recess that he was in “no rush” to address the issue.

“The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world. It is what the American people demand and deserve,” Johnson said at the time. Congressional Republicans scuttled a bipartisan border security bill negotiated in the Senate amid pressure from former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

While further aid for Ukraine has majority support in the House, including from a solid core of Republicans, Johnson has to manage a fractious conference that includes members on the right who staunchly oppose additional aid.

And despite efforts to release a spending deal Sunday, an agreement still hasn’t come to fruition amid high-level disputes over policy issues, according to GOP sources. Funding for four government agencies runs out Friday at midnight.

Johnson had told his members on a recent conference call that he was hoping to have a deal they could put on the floor this week.

CNN’s Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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