House recesses after rough week for Speaker Mike Johnson on multiple fronts

Johnson's challenges range from the delay of the FISA reauthorization vote to the White House rejecting his requests for a border meeting as well as pressure to vote on a $95 billion foreign aid package.

Published: February 15, 2024 11:00pm

House Speaker Mike Johnson faced a host of challenges on multiple fronts during a rough week for his speakership on Capitol Hill as the House recesses until February 28.

The White House has so far rejected House Speaker Mike Johnson's repeat requests for a meeting with President Biden about the record number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. at the southern border.

On Wednesday, Johnson said: "I've been requesting a meeting with the president for weeks now, a month, I've been asking to sit down with the president to talk about the border, talk about national security and that meeting has not been granted."

"In what world does this make sense?" wrote Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on X in response to a report about the White House not agreeing to hold a meeting between Johnson and Biden.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about Johnson's meeting requests. In response, she noted Biden met with congressional leaders in January. "What is there to negotiate, truly?" she said at a press briefing. "It's almost as if the speaker is negotiating with himself."

The White House mocked Johnson on Wednesday by posting a Valentine's Day card that blamed Johnson for the bipartisan Senate border-foreign aid failing in the Senate. Johnson had announced the bill was "dead on arrival" in the House when it was first released publicly. 

"Roses are red/Violets are blue/The border deal was crushed/Because of you," the message on X read. Newsweek reported the criticism of the posting. Podcaster Derek Hunter slammed President Joe Biden's age and the White House staff writing on X, "The President is 500 years old and his staff is 12." X user Paul A. Szypula wrote, "Joking about the border crisis that Joe Biden created is not funny. Shame on the White House. Biden has the ability right now to secure the border by using executive order. He has all the tools he needs. He just doesn't have the will to act. Shame on Biden."

The White House is also sparring with Johnson over the $95 billion foreign aid package that passed the U.S. Senate.

The border deal was originally tied to the foreign aid package covering Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian efforts in Gaza. It failed to advance in the Senate. The border language was then removed and the foreign aid legislation passed with votes from Democrats and Republicans.

Johnson announced that he didn't intend to put the bill up for a vote in the House. “The Republican-led House will not be jammed or forced into passing a foreign aid bill,” Johnson said on Wednesday. 

Some House conservatives have said that they oppose the $61 billion for the Ukraine war that's included in the package. The legislation does not include "pay-for" provisions to cover its cost.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates criticized Johnson for allowing the House to recess without passing the foreign aid bill.

“Every day that Speaker Johnson causes our national security to deteriorate, America loses. And every day that he puts off a clean vote, congressional Republicans’ standing with the American people plunges,” Bates said. “Running away for an early vacation only worsens both problems."

A GOP congressman on Thursday blasted fellow House Republican, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, for making a public statement the prior day related to an undisclosed national security threat.

Turner had requested that Biden declassify intelligence related to a “serious national security threat" so that Congress, the administration and U.S. allies "can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat.” 

Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., argued that Turner's statement constituted a "breach of trust" and described it as "reckless." Ogles alleged that Turner had released the statement in connection with the debate in Congress over Ukraine war funding and reauthorization of the controversial Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

Conservatives and some Democrats have been pushing for the FISA reauthorization bill under consideration to be amended to include language that would prohibit the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. Johnson decided to delay a vote on the FISA reauthorization bill while members continue to debate the issue. The FISA extension is set to expire in April.

Under Johnson, former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was expelled from office in December while he faced federal charges. He was not yet convicted but the GOP-led House voted in favor of removing him from the House.

The House Ethics Committee investigation found that Santos had misused campaign funds for personal expenses and "engaged in fraudulent conduct in connection with RedStone Strategies LLC."

The special election for his seat took place on Tuesday and the Democratic candidate, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, was able to flip the seat, cutting into the Republicans' already razor-thin majority of 219 in the chamber.

Despite the rough week in the House for Johnson, the GOP majority passed a resolution to impeach Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the southern border on the second attempt. The legislation failed to pass the week prior, prompting a social media post from Santos that said: "Miss me yet?"

The second vote to impeach Mayorkas ultimately passed on Tuesday by one vote but it is unclear if the Democratic-led Senate will hold a formal trial.

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