White House rejects Johnson’s requests to meet with Biden: ‘What is there to negotiate?’

(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Mike Johnson wants a one-on-one meeting with President Joe Biden to find a way forward to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and border security, but those requests have been denied.

Johnson on Wednesday reiterated his call for a sit down with Biden, seeking to put the onus on the White House to more forcefully intervene as Congress remains at a standstill.

“I am going to continue to insist on that because there are very serious issues that need to be addressed and if the speaker of the House cannot 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 White House pushed back on Wednesday by pointing to Johnson’s shifting positions on how to deal with foreign aid and border security, and his rejection of two Senate deals on these issues that gained bipartisan support.

“What is there to negotiate, truly?” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce.

“What is the one-on-one negotiation about when he’s been presented with exactly what he asked for?” Jean-Pierre continued. “So, he’s negotiating with himself [and] he’s killing bills on his own.”

Johnson’s most recent meeting request was last week. Since the meeting at the White House with congressional leaders on Jan. 17, Johnson requested a one-on-one meeting on Jan. 22 and “multiple times” since, a source familiar the requests told ABC News.

All requests for a meeting between Biden and Johnson have been declined by the White House, according to the source.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., cast the rebuffs as proof of what Republicans say is Biden’s inattention to the southern border.

“The president cares about all these other things going on around the world, as we do too, but if you don’t care about one of the biggest crises facing our country to the point where the president won’t even sit down with the speaker of the House to talk about ways to solve this problem … we’re going to take this seriously as we have for months even if the president and his administration refuse to,” Scalise said.

The White House, expressing exasperation, said Johnson still appears to be negotiating with himself on what he wants to see happen.

In the fall, when Biden first requested supplemental funding to support Ukraine and Israel amid their respective conflicts, Johnson said he wanted to tie that money to changes in immigration policy.

For months, a group of bipartisan senators worked to hammer out a deal that they said would implement the most comprehensive immigration reforms in years. Even before the details of the deal were released, Johnson cast doubt on whether it would pass muster in the House. Shortly after the bill was unveiled, he deemed it “dead on arrival” in the House.

At the time, Johnson denied the characterization that he reversed course. He told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that the legislation was a “nonstarter” because it didn’t contain, in his view, “real border security reform.”

The Senate then moved ahead with a standalone $95 billion foreign aid bill, which passed early Tuesday morning. Twenty-two Senate Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure.

Johnson said he was opposed to the stand-alone bill because it didn’t include any border changes.

“We are not going to be forced into action by the Senate who in the latest product they sent over doesn’t have one word about America’s security,” Johnson said Wednesday.

When pressed on what House Republicans are proposing now to find solutions on the border and aid for Ukraine, Johnson did not provide specifics.

“So, what we’re doing right now is the House is working its will, the House Republican conference — we just met an hour ago with all the members — and there are lots of ideas on the table of how to address these issues,” he told reporters. “We will address issues, we’ll do our duty on that matter and all that begins in earnest right now.”

Jean-Pierre pressed Johnson to bring the Senate foreign aid bill to the floor and was confident it would pass.

“I think the speaker’s confused,” Jean-Pierre said. “I think the speaker doesn’t understand what it is that his job is. Put that bill to the floor. Put that bill to the floor. It will get bipartisan support.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, joining Jean-Pierre at the White House podium on Wednesday, spoke about the urgent need for Ukraine aid as its fight against Russia’s invasion approaches its third year.

Asked how long Ukraine can continue to fight Vladimir Putin’s forces without this funding, Sullivan said he “can’t put a timetable on it,” but stressed inaction is costly.

“All I can say is that each passing day, each passing week, the cost of inaction from the United States that’s being borne on the front lines by brave Ukrainians is rising,” he said.

Jean-Pierre had sharper words for Republicans opposed to the aid, saying they are “siding with Putin.”

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