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Speaker to Biden: ‘Any bill that does not … secure the border is not acceptable’

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(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden met with Congressional leaders on Wednesday to discuss funding for Ukraine and the U.S. border, among other issues, in a proposed national security supplemental bill.

Ahead of the meeting, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson told reporters that House Republicans are “demanding real transformative policy change to secure the border because that is what the American people need and deserve.”

Johnson later called the meeting “productive,” but said they brought 64 examples of executive actions taken by the administration “to create the current catastrophe that we have at the border. It is a national security and a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The speaker also addressed the stalemate over more funding for Ukraine.

“We understand there is concern about the safety and security and sovereignty of Ukraine, but the American people have those same concerns about our own domestic sovereignty and our safety and our security, he said. “We have talked about the necessary elements to solve this problem,” pointing to HR 2, which the House passed. It would restore Trump-era policies including “Remain in Mexico,” ending catch and release, and reforming “the broken asylum and parole systems,” among other measures.

Johnson said the House “is ready to act but the legislation has to solve the problem.”

Regarding Ukraine, he said, “the status quo is unacceptable. We need the commander in chief of this country, the president of the United States, to show strength on the world stage and not weakness. We cannot continue with the current status quo.”

Johnson reiterated that securing the U.S. border must be the top priority.

“I think we have some consensus around the table,” he added. “Everyone understands the urgency of that and we’re going to continue to press forward.”

In news interviews that followed, Johnson said Biden created the problem through executive action and could end the problem through executive action.

Biden has made no such acknowledgements, having over the last several years blamed border-related issues on the Trump administration.

In a recent interview when asked about the border crisis, he replied there was none.

When asked by a reporter, “Would you call the situation on the southern border a ‘crisis’?” he replied, “No but I would say … we have to make major changes at the border. I’m prepared to make significant alterations with the negotiations going on.”

After Wednesday’s meeting, Biden posted a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating, “Today, I brought together Congressional leaders to make clear the importance of getting Ukraine what it needs to defend itself from Putin’s aggression. Failure to act endangers the security of the U.S. and the free world. Congress, don’t delay. Pass my national security supplemental. The time to act is now.”

Johnson edited the post, redlining the part about Ukraine and replacing it with “Securing the Border.”

He also said, “If only the president focused on our sovereignty first.”

The meeting came after Johnson and other members of Congress visited Eagle Pass, Texas, earlier this month. Local residents told The Center Square they are tired of news conferences, want the border shut down, and if Congress continues to fund Biden administration policies, Congress is complicit in creating the border crisis.

Negotiations about the border crisis continue after Congress already appropriated more than $113 billion to Ukraine without any stipulations for how and where the money is spent. By contrast, Congress has not appropriated a fraction of this amount to U.S. border security.

Numerous leaders in the House and Senate, the director of the FBI and others have warned about heightened terrorist threats coming through both borders. In fiscal 2023, the greatest number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) were apprehended at the northern border of 487. The U.S.-Canada border, the longest international border in the world totaling 5,525 miles, is left largely unmanned and unprotected, critics note.

Despite being understaffed, CBP agents recently apprehended an Iranian with terrorist ties in Niagara Falls, New York; 46 KSTs have been apprehended at the northern border so far in fiscal 2024, compared to 34 at the southwest border, according to CBP data.

The busiest northern border sector alone reported a 550% increase in apprehensions in fiscal 2023, totaling more than the previous 11 years combined.

At a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, former ICE Director Tom Homan said the administration had “created the greatest national security crisis since 9/11.”

Border Patrol agents have arrested foreign nationals from 181 countries, he said, including from countries that sponsor terrorism.

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