Biden and Speaker Mike Johnson talk border security amid shutdown threats

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., spoke with President Joe Biden about border security Wednesday, according to Johnson spokesman Raj Shah.

“Speaker Johnson spoke with President Biden today,” Shah said in a statement. “The Speaker strongly encouraged the President to use his executive authority to secure the southern border and reiterated the contents of his letter to the President dated December 21, 2023.”

In the letter, Johnson urged Biden to take several steps to secure the border, including ending the policy that allows Customs and Border Protection to release migrants in the U.S. without court dates; denying entry or detaining undocumented immigrants at ports of entry; restricting parole, which allows the administration to temporarily admit some migrants; and pursuing agreements with other countries like Canada to take those seeking U.S. asylum.

A senior Biden administration official said the White House has not closed the door to an in-person meeting between Biden and Johnson, but no such meeting has been scheduled.

The communication between the two leaders comes at a critical time, as some House Republicans are calling for a government shutdown if Biden and congressional Democrats don’t agree to tougher border policies.

Congress must pass some spending bills by Jan. 19 and others by Feb. 2 to avoid a government shut down. House and Senate leaders announced a deal on topline spending numbers on Sunday evening.

Republicans have railed against Biden and his administration over their handling of the influx of migrants at the border. The House Homeland Security Committee held its first hearing Wednesday in the GOP’s effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“We take no pleasure in this,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “There hasn’t been a Cabinet secretary impeached in over … since the late 1800s. But we live in unprecedented times, we’ve never had a Cabinet secretary who openly flouted federal law, who refused to enforce the law and then comes before Congress, raises his hand, takes the oath and tells us things that he knows and everyone knows are obviously untrue, insisting that the border is secure, and that they’ve got operational control of that is just simply not true.”

Earlier this month, Johnson led a group of House Republicans to the border in Texas recently to highlight record migrant crossings and denounce the Biden administration’s enforcement of immigration laws.

Meanwhile, negotiators in the Senate have been trying to reach an agreement on border policy. One of the key members of the talks, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Sunday on Fox News that a deal on immigration and border policy could be reached this week. He made clear that it has to pass a divided Congress.

“It’s a matter of trying to be able to get this out,” Lankford said. “But to make law, we’ve got to have a Democrat Senate, a Democratic White House and a Republican House to be able to go through this. So this agreement has to work. Everyone’s counting on this actually working.”