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Deal reached to avoid partial government shutdown Friday

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(WASHINGTON) -- House and Senate leaders on Wednesday reached a bipartisan deal to avert a partial government shutdown ahead of Friday's looming deadline.

Under the terms of the deal, the House is expected to vote Thursday on a temporary funding bill. The Senate will vote soon after.

With Democratic support, the legislation is expected to pass the House. It could face procedural hurdles in the Senate if one member objects to expediting the voting process, potentially pushing a vote past the shutdown deadline.

With Democratic support, the legislation is expected to pass the House. It could face procedural hurdles in the Senate if one member objects to expediting the voting process, potentially pushing a vote past the shutdown deadline.

If it passes, the deal would avert a partial shutdown this Friday of roughly 20% of the government, and create new funding deadlines: March 8 for that 20% and March 22 for the remaining 80%.

A March 8 deadline could leave President Joe Biden delivering his State of the Union address the night before the deadline to avert a partial shutdown.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Supreme Court to hear Trump's appeal for presidential immunity, further delaying Jan. 6 trial

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump's appeal of a unanimous lower court decision rejecting his claims of sweeping presidential immunity in the face of a special counsel case against him for alleged election interference in 2020.

The justices said they will take up this question in oral arguments the week of April 22.

Trump is facing four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction, in connection with his plot to remain in power. He pleaded not guilty to the charges last year.

A trial date was initially set for March 4 but was pushed back due to Trump’s attempts to have the case dismissed on the grounds he is totally immune from prosecution for any actions taken while he was serving in the White House.

Trump’s immunity claim presents novel legal questions for the judicial system, as he is the first president (current or former) to ever face criminal charges.

Two courts have already rejected his immunity arguments, the most recent being a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

"For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant," the judges wrote. "Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law and he is answerable in court for his conduct."

The judges warned that if his stance were accepted, it would “collapse our system of separated powers.”

Trump’s team swiftly filed a request to the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to stay the ruling, stating the justices should allow the appeals process to play out given the stakes for the 2024 election.

The special counsel urged the nation’s highest court to deny Trump’s request.

"The charged crimes strike at the heart of our democracy,” Smith’s team wrote in a filing. “A President’s alleged criminal scheme to overturn an election and thwart the peaceful transfer of power to his successor should be the last place to recognize a novel form of absolute immunity from federal criminal law.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Supreme Court divided over ban on rapid-fire rifle bump stocks

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared open to upholding a Trump-era ban on bump stocks as devices that turn weapons into rapid-fire illegal "machine guns," however it was not clear that a majority of justices would ultimately back such a ruling or agree on the rationale.

During oral arguments in the case Garland v. Cargill, both liberal and conservative justices suggested the devices – which allow a shooter to fire a semi-automatic rifle more rapidly and accurately – pose a significant danger and could reasonably be considered the types of weapons Congress sought to outlaw in the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Investigators say several of the devices were used to perpetrate America's deadliest mass shooting in 2017 in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 60 people and injured more than 500.

"Can you imagine a legislator thinking we should ban machine guns but we should not ban bump stocks?" asked Justice Samuel Alito.

"There was significant damage from machine guns, carnage, people dying, et cetera. And behind this is a notion that the bump stock does the exact same thing," noted Justice Clarence Thomas. "So, with that background, why shouldn't we look at a broader definition?"

At the same time, the court appeared divided and at times confused over the technical specifications of a fully automatic "machine gun," whether they are replicated by adding a non-mechanical bump stock, and what the criminal liability could be for hundreds of thousands of Americans who legally purchased the accessory from store shelves.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had legally approved bump stocks for sale for eight years starting in 2009, classifying them as recreational firearm accessories. More than 700,000 are said to have been sold. But after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, the agency changed course, reinterpreting the 1934 law and ordering the devices surrendered or destroyed.

"Intuitively, I am entirely sympathetic to your argument," Justice Amy Coney Barrett told the administration's attorney, Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher, who was defending the ban. "It seems like, yes, that this is functioning like a machine gun would. But, you know, looking at that definition, I think the question is, why didn't Congress pass that legislation to make this cover it more clearly?"

"Those weapons do exactly what Congress meant to prohibit when it enacted the prohibition on machine guns, and those weapons are machine guns because they satisfy both disputed parts of the statutory definition," Fletcher argued in his opening statement.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the fact that administrations of both parties had repeatedly said that the federal machine gun ban did not apply to bump stocks was "a reason for pause."

"It's not dispositive," Kavanaugh said, "but it's reason for pause."

Justice Neil Gorsuch said he could "certainly understand why these things should be banned" but also wrestled with the implications of the ATF rule change on hundreds of thousands of Americans who had thought they were purchasing them legally.

"It's going to ensnare a lot of people who are not aware of the legal prohibition," said Justice Kavanaugh, echoing Gorsuch. Justice Alito also called potential prosecution of people who had legally purchased bump stocks as "disturbing."

The court's three liberal justices sought to cut through debate, focusing their questions on Congress' original intent.

"Why do these various distinctions with respect to operations matter?" said Justice Elena Kagan. "I read this statute to be a classification statute that Congress is directing everyone or us to identify certain kinds of weapons, and those certain kinds of weapons are being treated in a particular way. They're being prohibited."

"I view myself as a good textualist," Kagan later added, "but, textualism is not inconsistent with common sense."

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said "weapons with bump stocks have triggers that function in the same way" as automatic weapons: "through a single, right, pull of the trigger or touch of the trigger, you achieve the same result of automatic fire."

"No," replied Jonathan Mitchell, the attorney representing Texas gun shop owner Michael Cargill, who is challenging the ban. "The premise of Your Honor's question is not true. A single discharge of the trigger produces only one shot."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned why anybody would need a bump stock, if not for replicating the kind of machine-gun fire the government long ago sought to curtail.

"Bump stocks can help people who have disabilities, who have problems with finger dexterity, people who have arthritis in their fingers," replied Mitchell.

Sotomayor shot back: "Why would even a person with arthritis, why would Congress think they needed to shoot 400 to 800 rounds of ammunition [per minute] under any circumstance? If you don't let a person without arthritis do that, why would you permit a person with arthritis to do it?"

"Well, they don't shoot 400 to 700 rounds because the magazine only goes up to 50," Mitchell replied.

Government experts say a semi-automatic weapon can theoretically fire up to 180 rounds per minute when operated by an experienced shooter. A traditional, fully automatic M-16 machine gun, by comparison, can fire 700-950 per minute. A bump stock-equipped semi-automatic rifle is estimated to be able to shoot 400-800 rounds per minute.

"The statutory definition of machine gun extends only to weapons that fire more than one shot automatically by a single function of the trigger," said Mitchell. "Non-mechanical bump stocks fall outside the statutory definition."

The justices are expected to render a decision in the case by the end of June.

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Senate Democrats, led by Duckworth, to force vote on protecting IVF access nationwide

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats on Wednesday aim to force Republicans to take a public stand in the controversy over in vitro fertilization by requiring them to either support or oppose legislation led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth -- a measure that would establish a statutory right to access assistive reproductive technologies, including IVF, in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

At a news conference Tuesday, Duckworth, who is sponsoring the legislation to create a federal law ensuring access, shared her personal experiences with IVF, which she said she used to conceive her two children.

"It's a little personal to me when a majority male court suggests that people like me who are not able to have kids without the help of modern medicine should be in jail cells and not taking care of their babies in nurseries," the Illinois Democrat said. "I know I'm not alone when I struggle to understand how politicians who support this kind of policy can possibly call themselves pro-life."

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that "unborn children are 'children' … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics." The unprecedented decision from the court could impact the future of IVF treatments in the state -- and several IVF providers have paused parts of their care to patients for fear of legal risks.

Duckworth's plan would require unanimous consent in order for it to pass -- even one objection from a Republican would tank it.

Duckworth and other Senate Democrats are making floor speeches on the bill Wednesday afternoon.

"If we do not act now, it will only get worse," Duckworth said on the floor.

Democrats were out in force Tuesday announcing that they'd push forward with trying to pass the legislation in hopes of putting Republicans on the record.

"I'm headed to the Senate floor to call on my colleagues to pass via unanimous consent my access to family building act, which would ensure that every American's right to become a parent via treatments like IVF is fully protected regardless of what state they live in," Duckworth said.

It's not yet clear whether Republicans will try to block the bill from advancing. Several Republicans signaled an openness to Duckworth's legislation, but some doubted the need for federal action.

"There's no effort in Florida or any state in the country to ban fertility treatment," Sen. Marco Rubio said.

But the Florida Republican indicated legislation could be a relief for medical practitioners exposed to liability.

"I think it'd be worthwhile for every state to provide clear, legal legislative guidance on how clinics can handle unused embryos, particularly when parents have not given clear direction," Rubio said.

Sen. Roger Marshall, an OBGYN who practiced medicine for more than 25 years before he was elected to the Senate, called on colleagues to "have a lot of compassion and care. this is a very complicated topic, a very personal topic. I encourage people discuss the issue with their own pastor, their own priests, their own rabbi."

"The Republican Party is the pro family party. So there's nothing more pro family then then welcoming new babies into the into the world. I think the Dobbs decision clearly puts this issue back at the state level. And we'd encourage the state legislature of Alabama to right this wrong and look forward to more IVF babies," the Kansas Republican said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham bluntly said an embryo doesn't constitute life.

"I think one thing I've learned is that nobody's ever been born in a freezer, that I know of. So you're not going to be born in a freezer. A fertilized egg has to be planted into a biological woman -- then you can have a baby," Graham said.

The South Carolina Republican said IVF "actually [provides] people with children who have a hard time otherwise."

"We're talking about the law here. At the end of the day, a embryo in a freezer is not going to develop into a human being. So we need to have a balanced approach to make sure that the the treatments go forward," Graham said.

Duckworth said that if Republicans who, in recent days have been out in force asserting their support of IVF, are being true to their word, they should support her effort Wednesday.

"I expect them to if they live up to the words that they are saying to not block it, but we'll see tomorrow when rubber hits the road whether they actually show up and show support for IVF or whether they actively block American families' ability to start families through IVF," Duckworth said Tuesday.

On ABC's GMA3 Wednesday morning, Duckworth said, "if you start to define a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights above that of the mother who would carry that fertilized egg, you're going to end up in a place where it's not just about access to abortion, it's about access to treatments like IVF or even contraceptives."

Duckworth drew on her own IVF experiences to communicate the frustration some may be feeling after the Alabama ruling.

"I was very sad for all of the families that were going through the process. I just imagine what it must be like to have been taking your injections for two weeks, getting ready for an IVF transfer, and then to have the clinic shut down on the eve of having that transfer and having all your hopes and dreams be crushed in that moment, because that's what's happening to families in Alabama right now," she said.

Duckworth said she doubts Republicans will support the bill, saying the vote "will be a test."

Duckworth appeared on "This Week" Sunday where she told co-anchor Martha Raddatz that "it's been crickets" from Republicans since the Alabama ruling threatened IVF access in the state.

"Not a single Republican has reached out to me on the bill. I've introduced a bill, multiple times, now multiple Congresses -- but frankly, let's see if they vote for it when we when we bring it to the floor," Duckworth told Raddatz.

Duckworth's bill also establishes the right to use or dispose of "reproductive genetic material" and allows the Justice Department to pursue civil action against states who block this right.

Duckworth has been trying to advance a similar version of this bill for years, but it has previously faced challenges from Republicans.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alabama lawmakers begin debate over IVF protection bills

Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Alabama lawmakers held a hearing Tuesday to begin debate over two bills that would add protections for in vitro fertilization treatment, allowing physicians to continue providing care a week after a state Supreme Court decision that said embryos should be considered children halted the procedure.

The first bill, both of which are Republican-led, would provide "civil and criminal immunity to persons providing services related to in vitro fertilization if the persons are following commonly accepted practices of care." One of the sponsors of the bill said it would allow care that was permissible before the decision was issued to resume.

"My bill is, to the best of my ability, trying to say what you were doing a month ago you can keep doing -- end of discussion," state Sen. Larry Stutts, a Republican, said Wednesday in a Senate Health Committee hearing.

Earlier Wednesday, state Sen. Tim Melson, a co-sponsor of the bill, told a rally that gathered outside the State House that he would work to add protections for patients seeking care in addition to physicians.

Advocates -- including IVF patients and physicians -- gathered outside the State House, planning to speak with lawmakers about the issue amid intense public backlash over the Alabama Supreme Court's decision.

Melson, who filed another bill that would provide "civil and criminal immunity" to anyone providing goods and services related to IVF, told the crowd of advocates that lawmakers are working hard to find a solution.

"Don't worry, everybody in this building knows your issue, is concerned and wants to get you back on your normal, abnormal life of infertility," Melson said.

"This isn't about politics, this is about patients and we wanna make sure we take care of patients today," Melson said. "We wanna help you create life."

During the committee's hearing, Melson was asked why the proposed bills do not address the root issue with the court decision -- that ruling that embryos are children -- and Melson responded that he "couldn't find anybody comfortable making that decision on when a life begins."

State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, a Democrat, pushed back, saying the bill avoids addressing the issue caused by the court ruling, which defined an embryo as a child.

"The same accident could happen again and if that definition is still there, it changes nothing," Coleman-Madison said.

"If we don't deal with the elephant in the room that got us to this place. We're going to be back here. And basically you're going to be in limbo," Coleman-Madison said.

Alabama Republican House Rep. Terri Collins, who introduced an IVF protection bill in the state House, also told the crowd that lawmakers want to help them resume care.

"When you walk in these doors, you will have advocates that you'll be speaking to. There's no reason to be afraid. We wanna fix this as much as you do," Collins said.

Since the high court issued its decision, three of the Alabama's seven IVF providers have halted treatment, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, the biggest hospital system in the state.

Physicians who spoke outside the State House called for a quick resolution, but one physician said the proposed legislation does not go far enough.

"We need to go further in these bills and we must protect patients. So we need to extend the liability of protections for patients," Dr. Mamie McLean, a physician at Alabama Fertility Specialists.

One of McLean's patients, who is currently seven weeks pregnant after she received an embryo transfer, told the crowd she had been trying for a second child for the last three years and was very upset over the decision, and said she's concerned she may need further care if her pregnancy does not continue.

"This court ruling adds devastation to a process that is already so hard in so many ways," Corinn O’Brien, the founder of the advocacy group Fight for Alabama Families Coalition, said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden undergoes annual physical ahead of November election

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden underwent his annual physical Wednesday morning at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in what could be the final health update before the November election.

Biden, 81, last received his physical on Feb. 16, 2023. Results have been released on the same day of his exam in the past two years through a letter from Biden's physician.

The White House said a written summary of the president's physical would be released later Wednesday.

At an event early Wednesday afternoon, Biden gave reporters two thumbs-up and smiled when asked how his physical had gone, saying, "everything's squared away."

"There's nothing different from last year," he said, adding "everything's great."

In 2023, Dr. Kevin O'Connor described Biden as a "healthy, vigorous 80-year-old man" who was "fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency." He did note that the president's gait had stiffened compared to the previous year, saying it was likely the cause of "wear and tear" on the spine, but did not result in "root nerve compression significant enough to warrant any specific treatment."

The president also had a small skin lesion removed from his chest and a biopsy confirmed it was basal cell carcinoma and "all cancerous tissue was successfully removed." Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and roughly 3 to 5 million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to JAMA Dermatology.

First lady Jill Biden also had two similar cancerous lesions removed in January 2023 from her face and chest.

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are concerned Biden is too old to serve a second term and believe that he has declined cognitively and physically.

A Quinnipiac University poll published on Feb. 21 showed that 67% of voters think Biden is "too old to effectively serve another 4-year term as president while 62% said Biden did not have the "physical fitness to serve a second presidential term" and 62% said he does not have the "mental fitness to serve a second presidential term."

An overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed in an ABC News/Ipsos poll published Feb. 11 think Biden is too old to serve another term.

According to the poll, conducted using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, 86% of Americans think Biden, 81, is too old to serve another term as president. That figure includes 59% of Americans who think both he and former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, are too old and 27% who think only Biden is too old.

There were no details about any kind of cognitive exam conducted by Dr. O'Connor last year or the kind of "mental competency tests" that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has called for.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has dismissed the idea of Biden taking a cognitive test during his physical, saying Dr. O'Connor does not believe it's "warranted because of just who [Biden] is as president of the United States and everything that he has to deal with."

"The president proves every day how he operates, how he thinks," she said earlier this month. "That is how Dr. O'Connor sees it."

She repeated as much on Wednesday, telling ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that "the president does not need a cognitive test."

When pressed on why the president's physician wouldn't administer a mental fitness test to quell concerns given all the scrutiny of his age, she said, "The doctor doesn't believe that he needs one ... if you look at what a clinical cognitive test actually is, it is a 15-minute appointment," adding that "every day" the president does work that is "more rigorous than it would be for any 15-minute clinical appointment."

She said he passes a cognitive test "every day as he moves from one topic, to another topic, to another topic, trying, understanding the granular level of these topics," she said. "This is a very rigorous job, and the president has been able to do this job every day for the past three years."

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Who might replace Mitch McConnell as the top Senate Republican?

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(WASHINGTON) -- With Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announcing Wednesday his plans to relinquish his leadership role in November, speculation is swirling about what will happen next and who might fill his shoes.

McConnell will be leaving a post he's held for about 17 years. And while his announcement Wednesday caught some by surprise, a behind-the-scenes race to replace him and chart a new path for the Senate Republican Conference has been percolating for months and will likely now break into full view.

After the 2024 election, but before newly elected members are sworn in, there will be closed-door Senate Republican Conference meeting in which members will nominate and elect a new leader.

There are three major contenders largely expected to vie for the top spot: the "three Johns," as some have called them, are Sens. John Thune, John Barrasso and John Cornyn.

Thune is currently the No. 2 Senate Republican and serves as the minority whip. The South Dakota Republican is largely seen as having been groomed by McConnell for the role, but given McConnell's waning popularity with the far-right flank of his party, it remains to be seen whether this helps or hurts his chances.

Thune was once a fairly outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, but ultimately endorsed him for president on Monday after his win South Carolina's GOP primary.

Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, is the No. 3 Senate Republican. Barrasso has the most conservative voting record of the three lead contenders, and was the first of the first of the three to endorse Trump's 2024 run -- doing so in January.

Cornyn, a Texas Republican, was once the Republican whip but termed out of the role after serving in it for six years. He is still considered part of McConnell's leadership team.

Cornyn toes the party line most of the time, but notably joined with Democrats to pass the bipartisan gun safety act last Congress, making him the target of fierce criticism in the state.

None of these men has yet made their intentions clear. Walking off the floor moments after McConnell's speech announcing that he would step down, Thune said McConnell "leaves really big shoes to fill."

"We'll give you more, I think, insight into what we're thinking here in the near future. Kind of want to just today honor him," Thune said.

Barrasso said the focus should be on another contest: the 2024 presidential election.

"There's a much more important election between now and November," Barrasso said.

It's very possible there could be a dark horse candidate as well. Last year, Sen. Rick Scott challenged McConnell for the seat he currently holds -- the first time McConnell had faced a leadership challenge. The Florida Republican lost to McConnell 37-10.

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McConnell to step down as Senate GOP leader after nearly two decades

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(WASHINGTON) -- Kentucky's Mitch McConnell is stepping down as Senate Republican leader in November after nearly two decades in the role.

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, announced the decision in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. He is the longest-serving Senate leader in history.

"To serve Kentucky in the Senate has been the honor of my life," he said. "To lead my Republican colleagues has been the highest privilege. But one of life's most under-appreciated talents is to know when it's time to move onto life's next chapter."

"So, I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues, to say this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate," he continued. "I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I'll complete my job my colleagues have given me to do until we select a new leader in November and they take the helm next January."

PHOTO: Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell announces his decision to step down from that position in November in a speech on the Senate floor, in Washington, Feb 28, 2024.

McConnell also made clear he'll finish his term as senator, which will end in January 2027.

"I still have enough gas in my tanks to disappoint my critics," he said.

In the rare personal and emotional remarks, McConnell noted the recent passing of his wife Elaine Chao's sister, which he said led to the "introspection" about his political future.

"As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work," he said. "A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today."

His speech was met with applause by those in the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others came over to shake McConnell's hand.

President Joe Biden, reacting to the news during an event at the White House, said he was "sorry to hear" McConnell was stepping down as leader.

"We had a great relationship," Biden said. "We fought like hell, but he never, never misrepresented anything."

House Speaker Mike Johnson, in a statement, called McConnell "one of the most consequential" Senate leaders in history.

"I join my colleagues in saluting his historic contributions to the Republican Party and to the Congress," Johnson said. "His legacy will endure for generations."

McConnell has been leading the Senate Republican Conference since 2007, and when his party gained control served as Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021.

During his tenure, he reshaped the federal judiciary by steering three conservative justices onto the Supreme Court.

"No Member of Congress has played a greater role in reshaping the federal judiciary than Mitch," Johnson said Wednesday.

In the past year, McConnell was plagued with health issues after sustaining a concussion and fractured rib in a bad fall. He also had two episodes where he appeared to freeze during news conferences, sparking concern among colleagues, though he was medically cleared to work by the Capitol physician.

He's also been at odds with some of his fellow GOP senators and others in the Republican Party, particularly former President Donald Trump, on recent issues, including border security and providing further assistance to Ukraine.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell hinted at those rifts but said he was "unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world."

"It's why I worked so hard to get the national security package passed earlier this month. Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time," McConnell said. "I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them."

"That said, I believe more strongly than ever that America's global leadership is essential to preserving the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan discussed. For as long as I draw breath on this Earth, I will defend America's exceptionalism."

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Appeals court rejects Mark Meadows bid to 'rehear' removal of Georgia case

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(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows has lost his latest bid to have the election interference case against him in Georgia removed to federal court.

When a federal judge denied his effort last year, Meadows appealed to a three-judge panel for the U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, which in December affirmed that "the events giving rise to this criminal action were not related to Meadows’s official duties," so the matter should remain with the state of Georgia. Meadows then requested that the entire 11th Circuit hold a "rehearing" to consider his appeal.

The 11th Circuit denied that request Wednesday, saying in a very short order: "The Petition for Rehearing En Banc is DENIED, no judge in regular active service on the Court having requested that the Court be polled on rehearing en banc."

Meadows was seeking to remove the case based on a law that calls for the removal of criminal proceedings when someone is charged for actions they allegedly took as a federal official acting "under color" of their office.

Meadows, along with Trump and 17 others, pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

The former White House chief of staff is accused in the indictment of participating in eight "overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy," while his attorney has said that "nothing Mr. Meadows is alleged in the indictment to have done is criminal."

The potential advantages of a removal to federal court, attorneys and law professors have said, would be the possibility of a more sympathetic jury pool and the potential delays such a move could cause.

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What would be affected if there's a partial government shutdown?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Congress is scrambling to lock in a plan to keep several key government agencies funded before a Friday deadline -- or risk a partial government shutdown that, among having other impacts, could eventually affect food assistance for millions.

Funding for the agencies -- about 20% of the government -- would run out on Friday night, and one week later on March 8, funding for the other 80% of government agencies also would expire if Congress fails to act.

Here's what to know about what would happen if a partial shutdown takes effect at the end of the day March 1.

Which agencies would be affected in the shutdown?

If Congress can't strike a deal, funding for the departments of Agriculture; Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs, including military construction, would expire Friday night.

Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security payments wouldn't be affected in a shutdown. Neither would the U.S. Postal Service, which uses its own revenue stream.

What happens to workers during a shutdown?

A shutdown means workers at those agencies who aren't deemed essential would have to stop working and would be furloughed. Employees in essential roles would be required to keep working without pay.

Many government employees would be told to report to work without pay, including service members, air traffic controllers and inspectors for railroads and airports.

More than 100,000 workers are expected to be furloughed on the spot without a solution from Congress by Friday night.

What about food assistance programs?

Two major food assistance programs under the Department of Agriculture could be affected by a long-term shutdown.

The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children -- known as WIC -- helps feed nearly 7 million at-risk, low-income women, infants and toddlers and is funded through March under the current continuing resolution. Funding won't dry up right away, but an enrollment surge of about 400,000 last year could mean wait lists increase if funding stays flat.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- also known as SNAP -- had an average monthly participation of approximately 42 million individuals in 2023. The USDA acted to ensure that SNAP participants will get their March assistance.

Veterans' benefits will still be available

Government agencies have contingency plans in place should a shutdown occur -- some involve furloughs or reduction of services.

With Veterans Affairs, about 17,800 employees would be furloughed and about 441,000 would be retained and paid thanks to advanced appropriations.

Veterans' medical care would still be available in the event of a shutdown. Other benefits would continue to be processed and delivered, including compensation, pension, education and housing benefits.

In a news conferences Monday, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said there would be "no impact on veteran health care" if a shutdown were to happen.

"However, we would not be able to conduct most outreach to veterans. Our public-facing regional offices would be closed and many regular operations like career counseling, transition assistance, and cemetery ground maintenance would not be available," McDonough said.

How would transportation be affected?

Key transportation operations would continue in a shutdown, but some services and employees would be affected.

Roughly 16,600 of the more than 45,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees are expected to be furloughed in a shutdown, agency officials said. Another 400 Federal Railroad Administration employees are expected to be furloughed.

TSA officers would continue to work without pay. However, with potentially fewer on duty, the White House has warned of possible longer wait times for travelers, as was the case in previous shutdowns.

Services such as facility security inspections under the FAA and research and development under the railroad administration would halt.

Rental assistance not immediately at risk

Rental assistance programs -- which serve 4.5 million households -- would not be immediately affected by a shutdown since they are funded through April, said HUD deputy press secretary Zachary Nosanchuk.

A shutdown would "greatly delay" the distribution of HUD grants to communities across the country, "possibly causing problems for counties, cities, and towns," Nosanchuk said. New grant funds would not be available in a shutdown, he added.

Haven't we been here before?

We sure have. This is the fourth time since October that Congress has stared down a government-funding deadline. Congress has already passed legislation to buy itself more time to negotiate long-term funding bills on three separate occasions since then.

But each passing deadline ups the stakes. Ukraine aid, border security provisions, and Kevin McCarthy's speakership have all been casualties of previous government funding standoffs.

ABC News' Allison Pecorin and Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Harris says White House backs 3 'days of action' on voting rights as she meets with advocates

Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday assembled voting rights leaders to reiterate the White House's support for the issue as she has taken a public role in advocating for several Democratic priorities -- on ballot access as well as abortion rights.

For the second time, Harris convened organizers described as being on the front lines of protecting voting rights and registering communities to vote, the White House said in a statement to ABC News.

The vice president and the approximately few dozen leaders met in a closed-door roundtable discussion in the Indian Treaty Room.

"We have seen those who would loudly attempt to interfere in the lawful votes of the American people and attempt to question the integrity of a fair and free election system," Harris said before the roundtable. "We have seen a rise in threats against poll workers. In fact, I met some recently in Georgia who had harrowing experiences in terms of how they were threatened, their well-being as well as their livelihood."

Underscoring her point, elsewhere on Tuesday, an Indiana man pleaded guilty to charges that he threatened to kill a Michigan election worker who had made public statements defending the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department said.

In her White House meeting, Harris laid out a four-point plan that the administration will initiate to try to bolster voters' rights.

The plan includes emailing instructions on how to register to vote to everyone enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare; allowing students to get paid through federal work study for helping people to register to vote and working as nonpartisan poll workers; implementing initiatives to protect election workers; and announcing three national “days of action” to promote voting.

The three days will be Juneteenth, June 19, the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6 and National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 17, according to Harris.

The vice president also said she will be in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday in remembrance of "Bloody Sunday," when white law enforcement officers attacked Black voting rights marchers on March 7, 1965, at the height of the civil rights movement.

"Many of us will be in Selma on Sunday to commemorate Bloody Sunday to remember the great John Lewis and Amelia Boynton and so many others -- to issue a call, yet again, for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," Harris said.

President Joe Biden has for years pushed for lawmakers to implement major election and voting overhauls that supporters say would expand ballot access.

Opponents, including many Republicans, argue such legislation would let the federal government intrude on state authority.

While Biden and Harris, now in the early stages of their reelection campaign, have reiterated their support for voting rights, they have also faced some criticism in their party for not taking more aggressive steps.

At the same time, the Voting Rights Act has come under new legal scrutiny.

A federal appellate panel ruled in November that a key provision of the landmark law does not allow people outside the federal government to sue over alleged electoral discrimination based on race.

For decades, individual voters and civil rights groups have brought successful challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, including last term at the Supreme Court, in a case about whether Alabama's congressional map was drawn to dilute the voting power of Black people. The justices sided with the plaintiffs.

Multiple civil rights organizations, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed an appeal of the ruling in December. It will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

The court's conservative-leaning majority has already sharply curtailed the act in a series of recent decisions to bring its enforcement in line with their interpretation of the law.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Alexander Mallin, Isabella Murray and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden holds off 'uncommitted' protest vote and other Michigan primary takeaways

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden handily won the Michigan primary Tuesday night, but still faced protest votes over his handling of the war in Gaza.

Critics of the president have protested the Israel-Hamas war across the state, which is home to a large Arab American population. However, it remains unclear if the “uncommitted” ballot option Tuesday, which organizers urged Democratic voters to choose to send a message to Washington, will garner enough votes to earn any delegates at the party’s national convention this summer.

On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump again romped, easily beating former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley, though, showed once again that an unignorable minority of Republicans aren't thrilled about the prospects of a third consecutive Trump nomination.

Here are three takeaways from the results Tuesday night in Michigan.

Biden handily wins, fending off a worst-case scenario…

Biden was expected to win Michigan's primary, but the growing effort to get progressives to vote for the "uncommitted" option on the ballot sparked speculation over what his margin would be.

With About 49% of the estimated vote tallied at publication time, the president had nearly 81% of the vote, with uncommitted stuck at just over 13%, a substantial enough margin to easily avoid a worst-case scenario for Biden's campaign.

Sensing the threat posed by progressive critics, Biden and his allies looked to finish strong in the home stretch of campaigning.

A friendly pro-Israel group had rolled out advertisements urging Democrats to vote for the president rather than for uncommitted, and Biden himself said in an interview that aired Monday night that a ceasefire in Gaza could be days away. And while the president and vice president themselves didn't campaign extensively in the state, Gretchen Whitmer, the popular Democratic governor, and her political action committee held several events backing the president just this month.

In a statement following primary projections, Biden touted his win and pushed for Democrats to unite behind him and Vice President Kamala Harris in November, casting the stakes of the election as too high for division.

"I want to thank every Michigander who made their voice heard today. Exercising the right to vote and participating in our democracy is what makes America great," he said. "For all of this progress, there is so much left to do. Donald Trump is threatening to drag us even further into the past as he pursues revenge and retribution."

"You've heard me say many times it's never a good bet to bet against the United States of America. It's never a good bet to bet against Michiganders, either. This fight for our freedoms, for working families, and for Democracy is going to take all of us coming together. I know that we will."

…but critics win enough votes to make their voices heard

While Biden did win by a yawning margin, supporters of "uncommitted" were able to win tens of thousands of voters to their cause.

The critics appear to have an uphill battle to hit the 15% threshold needed to net any delegates at the party convention this summer, but with about a third of the vote tallied, over 43,000 people had voted "uncommitted," a not insignificant figure.

"Our movement emerged victorious tonight and massively surpassed our expectations. Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats, many of whom … voted for Biden in 2020, are uncommitted to his re-election due to the war in Gaza," Listen To Michigan, a top group pushing the uncommitted effort, wrote on X.

"President Biden, listen to Michigan. Count us out, Joe,” the group posted.

It's not yet clear how many votes were cast for uncommitted, but for context, Biden won the state by about 154,000 votes in 2020.

In apparent recognition of the electoral threat, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison over the weekend said that Biden needed to hear out his detractors.

"At the DNC, we don't handle policy. But we have to deal with the political implications of policy as they move forward. And the one thing we see, particularly with the situation in Israel and Gaza, the president understands that this is personal for so many folks. And when you’re dealing with personal, you’re dealing with a lot of emotions that come along with it. And the first thing is sitting down and listening to people and hearing where they are," Harrison said on MSNBC.

Trump romps, but Haley takes a slice of the pie

As in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, Trump won Michigan without breaking a sweat.

With just over half of the votes counted, the former president had a 68-27% lead over Haley, the last remaining serious primary rival left in the race.

"I just want to thank everybody, you've been incredible. And I'm so proud of the results because they're far greater than anticipated. So, thank you all very much, and I'll be seeing you over the next period of nine months and long beyond that," he told state Republicans after his win.

Still, Haley was able to capture over a quarter of the vote, underscoring again that a vocal minority would rather not have Trump as their nominee and, she claimed, their president.

"Joe Biden is losing about 20 percent of the Democratic vote today, and many say it’s a sign of his weakness in November. Donald Trump is losing about 35 percent of the vote. That’s a flashing warning sign for Trump in November," Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement. "Let this serve as another warning sign that what has happened in Michigan will continue to play out across the country. So long as Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, Republicans will keep losing to the socialist left."

Haley's loss is likely to pour fuel on the pressure campaign for her to drop out, but the South Carolina Republican has remained adamant that she will stay in the race at least until Super Tuesday next week.

Haley said in a pretaped interview that aired Tuesday on CNN that she was "absolutely" staying in the race through March 5.

"Let people vote. Now, in the next week, we're going to watch 20 states and territories vote. Let's let that happen," Haley said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump says his trade war triggered job gains. Here's why that didn't happen.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A sewing machine manufacturer in Ohio froze employee wages, a New York City-based wheelchair producer forced layoffs at a U.S. supplier and a drone seller in Florida struggled to offer pay increases and hire workers.

The companies were among hundreds who filed comments with the federal government over the negative consequences of tariffs put in place under then-President Donald Trump. Many of the businesses bemoaned sudden employment-related difficulties, government filings show.

Drone Nerds, the Florida-based firm, criticized the tariffs in a filing as "a dead-weight loss for the economy."

The challenges reflect findings in a series of studies that show the tariffs undertaken by Trump resulted in at best a neutral effect on U.S. employment and at worst a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, all the while raising prices for consumers.

On the campaign trail, Trump has vowed to escalate the trade war initiated during his first term. Such policies would spur employment in some industries acutely threatened by foreign goods but the overall result would be further job losses due to a rise in costs for companies across the economy, experts told ABC News.

"Some jobs would be created," Raymond Robertson, a professor of economics and government at Texas A&M University, told ABC News. "But it's going to come with higher prices and the market will adjust with lower demand for workers."

In response to ABC News' request for comment, the Trump campaign rebuked criticism of the tariffs, pointing to strong economic performance under Trump.

"It's no surprise that organizations funded by foreign outsourcers, globalist corporations, and Chinese business interests don't like President Trump's historic tariffs -- but the American people don't need made-up 'models' to know how much better our economy was under President Trump," Karoline Leavitt, the campaign's national press secretary, told ABC News.

"By cutting regulations and taxes and using the leverage of the United States to negotiate better trade deals around the world, President Trump built the strongest economy in American history," Leavitt added.

During his tenure, Trump placed tariffs on aluminum and steel from a host of countries, including Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

Meanwhile, he taxed hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods from China, raising import costs for everything from shoes to BMX bikes to computer chips.

Trump's tariffs decreased U.S. employment by 166,000 jobs, according to a study from the nonprofit Tax Foundation, which cited an increase in import costs for U.S. employers. A separate study from the U.S.-China Business Council estimated up to nearly 250,000 lost jobs as a result of the tariffs.

The manufacturing sector drew special attention from Trump, who touted the potential for rejuvenating U.S. production.

However, in 2019, the Federal Reserve Board found that the tariffs had led to a 1.4% decline in manufacturing employment, which amounts to roughly 175,000 missing jobs that would've otherwise been created in the absence of the policy, Katheryn Russ, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis, told ABC News.

The primary reason for the job losses, experts said, owes to the increased costs for materials imported by U.S. firms, which in many cases raised prices to make up for the shortfall and in turn lost out on business. Retaliatory tariffs, which raised the prices paid for U.S. exports, also negatively impacted jobs, the experts added.

"What we know is that the tariffs increased costs for manufacturers," Russ said. "So overall they are associated with a decline in employment among manufacturers who used the goods targeted by tariffs."

Neel's Saddlery and Harness, a small seller of industrial sewing machines based in Lima, Ohio, suffered an immediate 20% drop in sales in 2018, after Trump placed tariffs on China-made sewing machines.

"Our prices had to go up and customers expressed dissatisfaction," Ryan Neel, the owner of the company, told ABC News. "It was very stressful."

In response to mounting losses, the company froze wages and ultimately laid off two of its six employees, Neel said. "I didn't tell them it was because of the tariffs," Neel added. "I said it was because we were losing business. But I think they could put two and two together."

To be sure, the tariffs have protected some industries vulnerable to cheap foreign goods, likely bolstering employment in those areas. A trade group representing steel pipe manufacturers and another advocating for wood flooring producers, for instance, defended the tariffs in comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In the absence of the tariffs, "large quantities of unfairly priced Chinese imports of steel pipe would be likely to result in U.S facility closures and the loss of thousands of U.S. manufacturing and related jobs," the American Line Pipe Producers Association Trade Committee said.

President Joe Biden, for his part, has kept many of the tariffs in place.

Trump has recently vowed to expand the trade war if he takes office next year, promising to impose tariffs on most imported goods. Speaking with Fox Business in August, Trump said the tax on imported items could ultimately stand at 10%.

Earlier this month, when asked by Fox News' Maria Bartiromo whether he would consider implementing a 60% tariff on Chinese goods, Trump said: "No, I would say maybe it's going to be more than that."

Higher tariffs would protect some industries but the ultimate effect would be a deepening of the job losses caused by the initial round of measures, experts said.

"If we impose 60% tariffs, that will have significant adverse effects on U.S. supply chains, employment and prices," said Robertson, of Texas A&M.

Neel said his firm would likely go out of business under such tariffs.

"The immediate drop in sales would be tremendous and jobs would be eliminated," Neel said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Inflation is falling, but these Biden voters in Michigan say 'it does not feel like it's gotten better'

ABC News

(GRAND RAPIDS, MI.) -- On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden is touting a post-COVID-19 economy that has roared back to life and continued to shatter expectations in recent months.

Worries of a recession are fading, unemployment remains very low and average wages are on the rise again after years of being overtaken by high inflation, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But in the grocery aisles in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Teresa Johnson, a single mother, struggles to make ends meet for her and her 11-year-old daughter despite the cooling prices.

She told ABC News that she is still recovering from the financial hardships of the pandemic and has yet to see the benefits of the recent economic upturn.

"I'm living paycheck to paycheck because it's so hard really to save," Johnson said in an interview with ABC News Contributing Political Correspondent Rachael Bade.

"I won't be able to retire, especially with a child that I have here at home. I don't see it coming. I'm going to have to work until about 70 or 72," Johnson said.

As voters look ahead to the 2024 presidential election, Johnson is among the 74% of Americans who said the economy was very important to them, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll from November.

A January ABC/Ipsos survey also found that Americans were broadly unhappy about the state of the economy, including the high prices and the high interest rates intended to fight inflation -- and they mostly disapproved of Biden's handling of the issue, despite his messaging and factors like high employment.

People like Johnson, in the key battleground of Michigan, offer a personal glimpse into those views, which could influence the next election.

A registered Democrat, Johnson told ABC News that while she voted for Biden in 2020, she is looking at other presidential candidates this year. "Right now, I'm kind of disappointed," she said.

"As far as the economy, I'm upset as a working adult, mother and grandmother," she said. "I don't feel that there's been enough changes as of now."

Though Johnson described herself as "on the other side," she said she likes former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a long shot challenger to Trump in the Republican primary.

For years, Johnson has been on a fixed disability income -- but due to rising costs seen since inflation jumped in 2021 and 2022, the 66-year-old former state employee has had to take a part-time job in a school cafeteria.

The climb in food and gas prices pushed her already-tight budget to the brink and the financial pinch has meant making some tough choices: prioritizing food sales over food quality and choosing cheaper cuts of meat for dinner.

"I love Honeycrisp, but $8 to $9 for a bag of apples? That's not good. That is really high. I can't afford that," Johnson told Bade, adding that it's been a couple of months since she's been able to have a large Sunday family dinner.

"It's not feasible anymore because of the price of food," Johnson said.

While inflation has fallen dramatically from its high in 2022, it remains nearly a percentage point above the Fed Reserve's target of 2%.

Consumer prices rose by 3.1% in January compared to a year ago, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is less than the 3.4% year-over-year figure in December and well below the 9.1% annual spike seen in mid-2022.

By comparison, labor data shows that average hourly earnings grew by 4.5% from January 2023 to January 2024.

The Biden campaign and its surrogates have aggressively tried to move public opinion on the economy, touring key battleground states to advertise his record, including spending to boost domestic manufacturing and infrastructure as well as the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, $740 billion legislation that invests in clean energy and aims to lower health costs and provide tax credit incentives.

"Thanks to the American people, America now has the strongest growth, the lowest inflation rate of any major economy in the world," Biden said at an event in January.

"Things are finally beginning to sink in," he said then. "We passed a lot of really good legislation. We knew it was going to take time for it to begin to take hold, but it's taken hold now in turning the economy around."

Despite continued economic growth, the president's politically branded "Bidenomics" pitch has largely fallen flat on the campaign trail, according to the polls.

Rising prices, even if they are rising more slowly than in 2021 and 2022, still seem to weigh on the minds of voters. (Officials like Fed Chair Jerome Powell have said that to truly decrease prices would mean having a broad recession -- which creates other problems.)

A late-January NBC News poll showed that just 33% of registered voters said Biden would do a better job than rival Donald Trump handling the economy, while 55% of respondents said Trump would be better than Biden.

Small business owner Arick Davis, owner of the Last Mile Cafe in Grand Rapids, said he's still reeling from the impact of inflation.

With many of his customers pinching pennies and shopping less, the financial toll has affected his bottom line, he said. He's had to dip into his savings to keep his business afloat.

"There's definitely been a lot of sacrifices in this period to turn this into the place that we want it to be," Davis told ABC News.

Like Johnson, he said that he isn't experiencing the lower rates of inflation that are making headlines.

"If inflation is going down, that's great, but I have not seen any of my bills get cheaper. It does not feel like it's gotten better. It does not feel like access to capital has improved," he said, adding that he wants to see more solutions for helping small businesses and reducing overall spending.

Davis voted for Biden in 2020 and said he plans to do so again in the 2024 election. And while he cannot see himself voting for Trump, he wishes there were other viable candidates to choose from.

"I do not think Joe Biden should be the nominee for the Democrats," Davis said. "There was a time where [Biden] presented himself as the best candidate, but I think that there are a plethora of people out there who probably would do a better job at the job."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden calls in congressional leaders to talk Ukraine aid, government shutdown deadline

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(WASHINGTON) -- An Oval Office meeting between President Joe Biden and congressional leaders on Tuesday turned tense, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as they discussed Ukraine aid and government funding.

Schumer and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries expressed optimism a shutdown would be avoided, noting that while some disputes remained, House Speaker Mike Johnson said he did not want funding to lapse on Friday night.

Johnson said he also believed they could come to an agreement and that Republicans were working in "good faith" on spending negotiations, though he continues to face some pushback from GOP hard-liners on how to handle the issue.

But Schumer said the conversation turned "intense" on the subject of Ukraine aid, which has been held up for months amid Republican demands for immigration reforms to address a surge of migrants at the southern border. Schumer said he, Jeffries, Senate Republican leader Mitch Connell, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were all in agreement when it came to assisting Ukraine.

"We said to the speaker, 'Get it done,'" Schumer told reporters outside the White House. "I told him this is one of the moments -- I said I've been around here a long time, there's maybe four or five times that history is looking over your shoulder and if you don't do the right thing, whatever the immediate politics are, you'll regret it."

"Because really, it's in his hands," Schumer added.

Johnson exited the meeting still insistent that the top priority be that the U.S. address problems at its own border.

"When I showed up today, my purpose was to express what I believe is the obvious truth, and that is that we must take care of America's needs first," Johnson said.

On the debate around the supplemental request for aid to Ukraine as well as Israel and Taiwan, Johnson said the House was "investigating" options, but was noncommittal on any potential action.

"We will address that in a timely manner but, again, the first priority of the country is our border and making sure it's secure," he said, declining to take questions from the press.

The House speaker also revealed he had a one-on-one meeting with Biden, something he'd been requesting for weeks. The White House previously said it rejected those requests because of Johnson's shifting views on how to deal with the border and Ukraine aid, though Biden said last week he was open to sitting down with the speaker solo.

Johnson called his meeting with the president a "frank and honest" conversation.

The two-year mark of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine passed this weekend. Since Republicans took control of the House, no new aid has been approved by Congress to help Ukraine stave off Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces.

The Senate earlier this month passed a $95 billion stand-alone foreign aid bill that includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine after House Republicans rejected a bipartisan proposal that tied the funding to immigration reforms.

Johnson dismissed the stand-alone bill for not including border changes, and it has not been brought to the House floor for a vote. On the issue of Ukraine aid itself, Johnson previously said he wants answers from the administration on what exactly the endgame is for Ukraine and how the U.S. funds would be used to reach that goal.

At the beginning of the meeting, Biden called figuring out how to keep the government funded was an "important problem" and reiterated his call for Congress to pass legislation to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

"On Ukraine, I think the need is urgent ... I think the consequences of inaction every day in Ukraine are dire," Biden said.

Schumer, who just returned from Ukraine where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he was "shaken" by what he witnessed there. He said Zelenskyy will "lose the war" if the nation doesn't get more weapons from the U.S.

Schumer didn't mince words as he criticized Johnson's approach to the issue, specifically his view that nothing should be done on Ukraine unless the border is dealt with first.

"There was no logic," Schumer said. "There is logic to solving the border. We want to solve it. But we have to do Ukraine right now … that can get done quickly because that has broad bipartisan consensus and the border takes more work."

Johnson, however, continued to make the case that Biden could take executive action on the border.

"I told him that again today in person, as I've said to him many times, publicly and privately over the last several weeks," Johnson said. "It's time for action. It is a catastrophe, and it must stop."

Biden has been considering executive action on tightening asylum restrictions, but Johnson criticized the potential move as "election year gimmicks."

 

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