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White House denies Johnson’s requests to meet with Biden on border

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The White House has denied multiple requests from Speaker Mike Johnson to meet with President Joe Biden over border security, according to a person familiar with the requests.

Johnson’s team has issued “multiple” requests to the White House for a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about a sensitive situation.

But Biden and White House officials have repeatedly said they believe the House should take up the Senate-passed national security supplemental instead of meeting and renegotiating a new package, after months of bipartisan Senate talks on the border ended in a bill that failed to even pass the upper chamber. Johnson had declared that legislation dead on arrival in the House, arguing it didn’t go far enough to tighten border security, and did not directly engage in those discussions beforehand.

“What is there to negotiate? Really, truly, what is the one-on-one negotiation about when he’s been presented with exactly what he’s asked for?” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “He’s negotiating with himself.”

Johnson said Wednesday that he will “continue to insist” on a meeting with Biden, as House Republicans try to draft their own solution on the border.

“If the speaker of the House can’t meet with the president of the United States, that’s a problem,” Johnson said. “I don’t know why they’re uncomfortable having the president sit across the table from me, but I will go in good faith.”

The two leaders spoke via phone on Jan. 10 and met in person with several other congressional leaders on Jan. 17.

Johnson’s team requested a meeting on Jan. 22 and made “multiple subsequent requests,” according to the person. They have all been denied.

“Members of Speaker Johnson’s own conference have stated that if these urgent national security priorities were put up for a clean vote, the legislation would pass the House with overwhelming bipartisan support – as it did in the Senate,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said. “Given that reality, combined with the fact that congressional Republicans were just dealt a major defeat for siding with fentanyl traffickers, smugglers, Donald Trump, and their personal politics over the Border Patrol Union, it makes sense the Speaker would be feeling heat and grasping for an escape hatch.”