Politics

Johnson draws hard line on Senate’s border-Ukraine dealmaking

Speaker Mike Johnson drew a hard line on border talks during a private Wednesday meeting with GOP senators — setting parameters that have little chance of going anywhere on their side of the Capitol.

The new speaker told Senate Republicans at a party lunch that he wants GOP border negotiators to push for as much as possible of the conservative House-passed border bill known as H.R. 2, according to senators who were in the room. That proposal is a nonstarter with the Senate’s Democratic leaders.

It wasn’t the only blow that Johnson delivered to senators’ shaky bipartisan border talks.Johnson also told GOP senators that he’s not committed to taking up a big sweeping package even if they can pass it — and even if it includes some border policy changes — “until he knows exactly what it looks like,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

What’s more, Johnson said it’s the House GOP’s preference to pass each provision separately on the House floor, arguing that he “did not think he had the votes to do them all” together, said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Senators in both parties are hoping to pass a package tying together Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the border as a comprehensive national security package, hoping it can get enough votes from both parties if everything is lumped together.

Johnson’s hard line is a further challenge for that proposal, which already faced a significant uphill climb. In border negotiations, Republicans are struggling to get Democrats to budge on much more than raising the asylum standard, and Senate Democrats have already panned proposals that resemble H.R. 2. The House’s immigration bill would significantly tighten the asylum process, fund continued building of a border wall and ramp up technological monitoring along the northern and southern borders.

Pushing for its inclusion may buck up Republicans in Congress but will absolutely alienate Democrats.

“He wants as much of H.R. 2 as you can. And I’m all for H.R. 2. But it’s a double-edged sword,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “If we pass H.R. 2 and make it part of the package, you may not get a single Democratic vote in the House.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Johnson for about 30 minutes before the meeting with the Senate GOP. Johnson did continue to advocate for funding Ukraine in the lunch, repeating his view that Congress can’t let Russian President Vladimir Putin march through Europe, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

“He understands the need for the priorities for the supplemental,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the border negotiators. “Now the question is how they package it. We have a view here that we really need to send that out in a package.”

Conservative senators left the meeting with the inkling that the border negotiations were struggling at the moment and that a massive, $100 billion spending package was unlikely to pass Congress at all. Some on the right immediately left the lunch and trudged to a press conference with House conservatives, where they took an even harder line on where bipartisan border talks currently stand. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, declared: “that’s dead on arrival in the House.”

“I’d say you’d have to be a real optimist to see how this is going to work,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

There are still a few of those left. Kennedy and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-La.) still thought the Senate would pass a supplemental bill in the end, despite the divergent views in the two chambers.

And some thought Johnson would end up giving the Senate’s bid serious consideration.

The speaker “was upbeat about being able to put together a package and he understands that he’s not going to get everything that was in H.R. 2, but he’s going to do his best to try to get as much as possible,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.

Speaker Mike Johnson drew a hard line on border talks during a private Wednesday meeting with GOP senators — setting parameters that have little chance of going anywhere on their side of the Capitol.
The new speaker told Senate Republicans at a party lunch that he wants GOP border negotiators to push for as much as possible of the conservative House-passed border bill known as H.R. 2, according to senators who were in the room. That proposal is a nonstarter with the Senate’s Democratic leaders.
It wasn’t the only blow that Johnson delivered to senators’ shaky bipartisan border talks.Johnson also told GOP senators that he’s not committed to taking up a big sweeping package even if they can pass it — and even if it includes some border policy changes — “until he knows exactly what it looks like,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
What’s more, Johnson said it’s the House GOP’s preference to pass each provision separately on the House floor, arguing that he “did not think he had the votes to do them all” together, said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Senators in both parties are hoping to pass a package tying together Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the border as a comprehensive national security package, hoping it can get enough votes from both parties if everything is lumped together.
Johnson’s hard line is a further challenge for that proposal, which already faced a significant uphill climb. In border negotiations, Republicans are struggling to get Democrats to budge on much more than raising the asylum standard, and Senate Democrats have already panned proposals that resemble H.R. 2. The House’s immigration bill would significantly tighten the asylum process, fund continued building of a border wall and ramp up technological monitoring along the northern and southern borders.
Pushing for its inclusion may buck up Republicans in Congress but will absolutely alienate Democrats.
“He wants as much of H.R. 2 as you can. And I’m all for H.R. 2. But it’s a double-edged sword,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “If we pass H.R. 2 and make it part of the package, you may not get a single Democratic vote in the House.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Johnson for about 30 minutes before the meeting with the Senate GOP. Johnson did continue to advocate for funding Ukraine in the lunch, repeating his view that Congress can’t let Russian President Vladimir Putin march through Europe, according to a person briefed on the meeting.
“He understands the need for the priorities for the supplemental,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the border negotiators. “Now the question is how they package it. We have a view here that we really need to send that out in a package.”
Conservative senators left the meeting with the inkling that the border negotiations were struggling at the moment and that a massive, $100 billion spending package was unlikely to pass Congress at all. Some on the right immediately left the lunch and trudged to a press conference with House conservatives, where they took an even harder line on where bipartisan border talks currently stand. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, declared: “that’s dead on arrival in the House.”
“I’d say you’d have to be a real optimist to see how this is going to work,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
There are still a few of those left. Kennedy and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-La.) still thought the Senate would pass a supplemental bill in the end, despite the divergent views in the two chambers.
And some thought Johnson would end up giving the Senate’s bid serious consideration.
The speaker “was upbeat about being able to put together a package and he understands that he’s not going to get everything that was in H.R. 2, but he’s going to do his best to try to get as much as possible,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).
Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.  

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