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Johnson gets squeezed by Biden, Senate GOP on Ukraine, border

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President Biden and congressional leaders in both parties are ramping up pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to accept an expected deal on Ukraine funding and border security, warning national security is at risk without action by Congress.

Security experts at a White House meeting Wednesday briefed Johnson and other leaders about the dire situation faced by Ukraine. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan were among those in attendance.

The looming package also includes funding for Israel and the Indo-Pacific region, two other hot spots where U.S. concerns are rising.

Lawmakers say the intent was to highlight that Congress is running out of time to pass an emergency supplemental and that the primary intended audience was Johnson, who has pushed back against the emerging Senate border deal amid pressure from conservatives in his own conference.

The White House and congressional leaders, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), are stepping up their engagement with Johnson after he poured water on the border security talks over the weekend.

Johnson on Saturday posted a Fox News summary of the deal, which reported it would include an increase in green cards and allow up to 5,000 migrants a day into the United States.

“Absolutely not,” Johnson wrote above the news graphic.

House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., second from right, flanked by, from left, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas., speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, following their meeting with President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Speaker then doubled down on his criticism Wednesday morning, telling reporters: “I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated that is.”

He called for more time for the talks to play out, and made another pitch for H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, which the House passed in May without any Democratic votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, has called that bill a “non-starter” in the Senate.

Senate leaders are feeling increasingly confident about finalizing a Ukraine funding and border security package in the next few days but acknowledge they don’t know whether it can pass the House.

“I don’t know what the House will do, but what we’re working on is trying to get a package out of the Senate that deals with national security and border security in a credible way,” McConnell said Wednesday.


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McConnell told reporters he expects the national security emergency spending package, which would include border security reforms, to reach the Senate floor next week.

Johnson still sounded skeptical after the White House meeting, raising concerns about the prospect of an open-ended commitment to Ukraine.

“We need the questions answered about the strategy, about the end game,” he said.

He also emphasized that border security is as important as other national security concerns.

“We must insist that the border be the top priority,” he said.

Republican critics of the expected Ukraine-border security deal argue it doesn’t go far enough to stop the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

But administration officials warn waiting longer to pass military aid for Ukraine and Israel will have serious consequences.

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