White House Rejects Johnson’s Demand for Talks With Biden

White House Rejects Johnson’s Demand for Talks With Biden

The speaker wants a one-on-one with Biden.
USA Today Network
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Good Wednesday evening. Here’s your freshly squeezed fiscal update.

White House Rejects Johnson’s Demand for Direct Talks With Biden on Border Deal

Speaker Mike Johnson insisted Wednesday that he won’t be rushed or pressured into holding a vote on the $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that was passed by the Senate Tuesday morning.

“The Republican-led House will not be jammed or forced into passing a foreign aid bill that was opposed by most Republican senators and does nothing to secure our own border,” Johnson told reporters.

Republicans last week rejected a bipartisan border deal negotiated in the Senate, which then stripped the border provisions from its supplemental spending package and passed the foreign assistance portion on a strong bipartisan basis.

Johnson has dismissed that legislation as well, arguing that the border must be addressed first. He said Wednesday that he has been asking for direct talks with President Joe Biden. “That meeting has not been granted,” Johnson said, “and I’m 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 can’t meet with the president of the United States, that’s a problem.”

Unsurprisingly, the White House sees it differently. It dismissed Johnson’s demand and said it would look to keep pressing the speaker for a vote rather than a meeting.

“What is there to negotiate? Really? Truly? What is the one-on-one negotiation about when he’s been presented with exactly what he asked for? So, he’s negotiating with himself. He’s killing bills on his own,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily press briefing. Jean-Pierre reiterated the president’s position that if Johnson allowed the bill to come up for a floor vote it would pass with bipartisan support.

At the press briefing, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan pushed back on the idea put forth by former president Donald Trump, and embraced by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, that the foreign aid should be structured as a loan. Trump has opposed both the Senate border deal and the foreign aid plans. Sullivan responded by telling reporters that, while there can be a place for loans as assistance to other countries, it doesn’t make sense for the current national security supplemental bill.

“Try telling a Palestinian mother in Gaza that, you know, to get a piece of medicine, they have to take out a loan,” he said.

And, he argued, structuring aid to Ukraine as a loan would only add to the country’s economic burden at a time when it is fighting for its survival against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. “Talking about loans as opposed to providing the necessary infusion of cash is only going to make the economic problems of that country worse at a time we are trying to make them better, because a stronger, more stable, more secure Ukraine is in the fundamental national security interest of the United States,” he said, adding a similar argument for aid meant to ensure Israel’s security.

What’s next: The aid package is stalled, at least for now, but lawmakers who support funding for Ukraine are still working on a long-shot effort called a discharge petition to force a floor vote on the bill. House Republicans, meanwhile, are reportedly considering attaching some of their preferred border policies to the legislation and sending it back to the Senate. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican and co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, told reporters that the plan could be unveiled soon. “Stay tuned in the next 24 hours, I think you’ll see something that I think will be bipartisan,” he said, according to Politico.

The House could also look to break up the Senate bill and vote on it in parts.

“It’s increasingly clear the new speaker has no clear strategy for what happens next as the aid package that was approved by an overwhelming majority of senators this week falls into serious jeopardy,” write Lisa Mascaro and Stephen Groves of the Associated Press.

The House is also set to leave for its Presidents; Day recess, and when lawmakers return at the end of the month they will have just days to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Why it matters: “The slow-walk of U.S. aid to an ally during the largest ground war in Europe since World War II shows how far Republicans have retreated from overseas leadership in line with Trump,” Mascaro and Groves say. “While Johnson has said he personally supports aid for Ukraine, he leads a far-right majority that is more closely aligned with Trump's isolationist ideology and, increasingly, a hands-off approach to Putin's aggression.”

Social Media Post of the Day

Who’s feeling the love on this Valentine’s Day? Not The White House.


House Rejects Effort to Boost SALT Deduction

In a procedural vote Wednesday, the House rejected a bill that would double the state and local income tax (SALT) deduction for some filers. The vote was 195-225, as 18 Democrats joined a larger group of conservative Republicans to reject the rule governing debate on the bill.

Ever since the 2017 Republican law enacted under former president Donald Trump put a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction to help offset the cost of its tax cuts, lawmakers from relatively high-tax states including New York, New Jersey and California have been pushing to restore the full value of a tax break that primarily benefits residents of affluent areas. Speaker Mike Johnson agreed to hold a vote on the latest SALT deduction bill as part of the effort to build support for the $78 billion tax package that passed the House earlier this month.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican from New York, the bill would raise the SALT cap to $20,000 for joint filers earning less than $500,000 a year, applicable to the 2023 tax year. Although the effort to raise the SALT cap has been bipartisan in the past, Democrats shied away from Lawler’s bill, with Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill, both from New Jersey, withholding their votes.

The bill has little support from policy experts on both the left and the right. “Increasing the SALT deduction cap alongside this deal without an adequate offset would mean abandoning this principle and would weaken the tax code in the process,” analysts at the fiscally hawkish Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget wrote a few weeks ago.

Chuck Marr of the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has also opposed the bill. In a blog post, Marr said that more than half of the benefit of doubling the SALT deduction would go to households in the 95th to 99th percentiles for income. As the chart below shows, a family earning $400,000 and living in a typical high-tax area could receive a tax cut worth about $2,400 from the bill — and that comes on top of the $12,000 tax cut they received from the 2017 tax law.

“Many mistakenly believe the SALT bill would compensate ‘losers’ from the 2017 tax cuts,” Marr said on social media. “In reality the biggest winners (rich households) would get another tax cut.”


Send your feedback to yrosenberg@thefiscaltimes.com.

Fiscal News Roundup

Views and Analysis