May 19, 2024

Speaker Johnson Sticks With Border ‘First’ Stance After White House Meeting

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) emerged from a White House meeting with President Joe Biden and other congressional leaders on Tuesday, saying he stood firm on his view that immediate action to secure the southern border is the nation’s top priority.

The meeting also included Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Although the Democrat leaders said afterward that an urgent push to provide more aid to war-torn Ukraine made for an “intense” but “productive” discussion, Johnson signaled that border security had to be addressed first and foremost.

“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. When you talk about America’s needs, you have to talk first about our open border,” Johnson told reporters.


The speaker said he brought up that issue “repeatedly today in that room and, again, one-on-one with the president.” He added, “I think that’s our responsibility to bring that up,” and concluded his remarks by noting how “the first priority of the country is our border and making sure it’s secure. I believe the president can take executive authority right now today to change that.”

Biden is expected to travel to the Texas border with Mexico on Thursday, the same day former President Donald Trump is poised to pay the border a visit, but the White House has been mum on whether he will unveil any new actions while on the trip.

Participants at the meeting also talked about spending legislation as the latest stopgap measure is set to expire in two stages, with funds approved for some federal agencies through March 1 and money to other departments through March 8.

Johnson said his other “big priority” in the meeting was government funding. He insisted that lawmakers have been working in “good faith” and “around the clock” to come to a solution to avoid a shutdown next month. “We will get the government funded,” he said.

Another topic of discussion was foreign aid to countries such as Ukraine and Israel, as well as humanitarian assistance to people impacted by conflicts around the world. The Senate has passed a $95 billion package that, so far, the House has refused to consider. Some House lawmakers are pushing for a different bill with a roughly $66 billion price tag that would link foreign aid with some border security reforms.

Johnson told reporters that he was “very clear” with Biden and the others “that the House is actively pursuing and investigating all the various options” and that House Republicans would address it “in a timely manner.”

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