Biden and Congress watch a daunting month as Russia-Ukraine dispute, Supreme Court pick and China bill loom

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Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine, the opening of the Supreme Court, a budding political battle over a proposed competition law in China, and more are facing members of Congress and to President Biden in what may be the most critical month of his presidency to date.

Above all, the Ukraine issue already appears to be straining relations between Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Last week, as Zelensky sought to project stability in the face of Russian military buildup on his border, the White House directly refuted him and said it was very likely that Russia would launch a full-scale attack.

“We understand the difficult position President Zelensky is in and the pressure he is under,” a White House official told Fox News on Saturday. “But at the same time he’s downplaying the risk of invasion, he’s asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to defend against an invasion. We think it’s important to be open and upfront about this threat. .”

Russia has also moved medical units to the Ukrainian border, a defense official confirmed to Fox News – yet more evidence that an invasion could be imminent.

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have joined army reserves Ukraine in recent weeks amid fears of a Russian invasion. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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This means that Congress may have little time to prepare a set of sanctions against Russia in retaliation for any invasion. It also means Biden is likely to be defensive about his handling of Russia, whether the invasion could have been prevented and whether his handling of the Afghanistan pullout emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin. Republicans are already attacking him for it.

“If Vladimir Putin saw what Joe Biden did over the last year and then saw his recklessness in Afghanistan, and I’m afraid he thinks it’s time to go get the jugular in Ukraine,” said Senator Tom Cotton. R-Ark., said on “Fox News Sunday”.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is pushing Congress to counter America’s other major geopolitical enemy and send a Chinese competition bill to Biden’s office. The Senate passed a bipartisan competition bill last year, but it stalled due to differences with the House version.

President Joe Biden speaks about the government's response to COVID-19, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. He and the Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky disagree on the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden speaks about the government’s response to COVID-19, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. He and the Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky disagree on the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
((AP Photo/Andrew Harnik))

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Raimondo last week hailed a new bill introduced by House Democrats as capable of “creating good jobs, rebuilding American industry and strengthening our supply chains here at home for years to come. “.

But House Republicans are already attacking it, and it’s unclear whether the bill can make it through the Senate. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the House Democrats’ bill “torpedoes[es] the chance of a bipartisan, bicameral bill to address the generational threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

A Senate confirmation process for a candidate to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is also pending. Biden said he would nominate a black woman to fill Breyer’s seat by the end of February.

Associate Justice of <a class=the Supreme Court Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Finding a replacement for the highly respected justice is just one more item on the plate of President Biden. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)”/>

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Finding a replacement for the highly respected justice is just one more item on the plate of President Biden. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.S.C., told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he “can’t say anything bad” about J. Michelle Childs, one of the top rumors for the appointment. And with favorable terms in the Senate for Biden’s eventual nominee, whether or not it’s Childs, the confirmation process could be Biden’s best chance for a big political victory.

But that process will take time as Congress tries to deal with a host of other issues. They include government funding, potential reforms to the Voter Count Act (ECA) and continued calls from progressives for Democrats to pass the Build Back Better social spending bill amid growing frustration with the base of the party towards their leaders.

CEA reform would target perceived loopholes in the law that former President Donald Trump tried to take advantage of to stay in power when he falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

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It is led by moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., say they support it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., sits before a Senate Committee on Rules and Administration oversight hearing on the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 in Washington.  Schumer said earlier this month that passing voter count law reform without broader election bills would be insufficient.  But that appears to be the only way for Congress to deal with the events that led to the Jan. 6 attack by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., sits before a Senate Rules and Administration Committee oversight hearing January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 in Washington. Schumer said earlier this month that passing voter count law reform without broader election bills would be insufficient. But that appears to be the only way Congress can deal with the events that led to the Jan. 6 attack by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump.
(Elizabeth Frantz/Pool via AP)

However, this bill will have to overcome some political hurdles, including disgruntled progressives. Republicans have obstructed the Democrats’ sprawling electoral reform plans and said CEA reform is not enough. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called the ECA’s reform alone “unacceptably insufficient” earlier this month.

Schumer appears to be backtracking on that stance, Politico reported. Whether the progressives will do the same remains to be seen. Trump also issued a statement on Sunday attacking CEA reform efforts that could motivate some Republicans aligned with him to oppose such a bill.

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On top of all that, the government is set to run out of funding on Feb. 18 after Congress passed an interim spending bill last year. Although the risk of shutdown is not very high, the effort to reach a long-term budget agreement will distract lawmakers even more. If an agreement is not reached, another short-term government funding bill may be required.

And even if the BBB talks remain stalled with little to no signs of life, the progressive congressional caucus is demanding that Senate Democrats pass it before March 1, the date of Biden’s state of play address. The union.

They call this goal “achievable and necessary”. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called it an “aspiration” but said “we have other things to do.”

Fox News’ Pat Ward, Peter Aitken, Lucas Tomlinson and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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