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Johnson 'very optimistic' shutdown can be avoided, says he pushed for border action at Biden meeting

"We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown and that's our first responsibility," Johnson told reporters

Published: February 27, 2024 1:58pm

Updated: February 27, 2024 4:21pm

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., told reporters he's "very optimistic" that a government shutdown can be avoided before Friday after a meeting at the White House with President Biden and congressional leaders.

"We believe that we can get to agreement on these issues and prevent a government shutdown and that's our first responsibility," Johnson told the press after the meeting. "We will get the government funded and we'll keep working on that."

Johnson described the meeting as "frank and honest," and said he emphasized in his one-on-one time with Biden that the "open border" has to be a priority. He told reporters that he reminded Biden he can take executive action to fix the "catastrophe" at the southern border.

"I had a one-on-one for a period of time with the president, just he and I in the Oval Office," he said. "It's time for action."

The first of two shutdown deadlines is Friday, March 1 and the second one is Friday, March 8.

On April 30, automatic spending cuts of 1% kick-in if Congress doesn't reach an agreement on full-year appropriations bills, per the deal that former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Biden reached last year.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the meeting that "it's pretty safe to say we all agree we need to avoid a government shutdown.:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described the meeting as "one of the most intense I have ever encountered in the Oval Office."

Schumer said he "made clear to Speaker Johnson just how vital passing the Senate’s bipartisan national security bill was to the United States." The Senate passed $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian efforts in Gaza. The House has not yet taken a vote on the legislation. 

McConnell told reporters he would like to see the GOP-led House take a vote on the foreign aid bill.

"The best way to move quickly and get the bill to the president would be for the House to take up the Senate bill and pass it,” he said.

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