Even as U.S. President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders from both parties are set to meet on Jan. 17, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said that the time is not right for a deal on immigration and border issues that could pave the way for approval of new aid for Ukraine.
Politico reported on Jan. 16 that Biden had called for a bipartisan meeting of top leaders to try and hammer out a deal on border issues, Ukraine aid, and other spending issues. The U.S. has been stuck in internal battles over spending for months, stretching as far back as the ousting of previous Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in October 2023.
Senate Republicans blocked the approval of $61.4 billion in aid for Ukraine in December, largely over concerns the bill did not contain border security measures.
"I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform because we know how complicated that is,” Johnson said on the morning of Jan. 17.
"We have to secure our own border before we talk about doing anything else," he added, saying that he had already told Biden that he was not ready to make a deal earlier in the day on the phone.
"I’m going to tell the president what I’m telling all of you, what we’ve told the American people: border, border, border," Johnson said.
Johnson's other comments on Ukraine indicated that his concerns about the ability for new aid to be passed were not limited to border issues. Republicans have a very slim majority in the House, and some members have said they are categorically opposed to further aid for Ukraine, regardless of compromises on the border and immigration.
The White House is also lacking a strategic plan for the U.S.'s role in Ukraine, Johnson said.
"What is the endgame and the strategy in Ukraine?" he asked. "We need to know that Ukraine will not be another Afghanistan."