During an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” moderator Kristen Welker asked Johnson, R-La., whether he proposed the stand-alone Israel aid package, which he first announced in a Saturday letter to colleagues, to kill the compromise deal in the Senate.
“No, we’ve made very clear what the requirements of the House were, and that is to solve the problem at the border,” he said, adding that the House has been “awaiting” action from the Senate.
Johnson indicated that the House was not offered a briefing on the Senate’s tentative deal on immigration and Israel aid.
“Were you offered a briefing on this compromise bill, and will you put it on the floor?” Welker asked.
“Well, when they began to do the negotiation, I suggested immediately after taking the gavel, I suggested to Senate leadership that the House should be involved — we should be in the room,” he said. “I wanted to send the chairmen of our committees of jurisdiction to be a part of that in the negotiation. And they said, ‘No, no. Let let the Senate take care of it.’”
Welker pressed Johnson again, “But were you offered a briefing?”
“No, I have not been,” he said. “No, I’ve had individual senators call and give me tips and offered things that are going on in the room. But we’ve not been a part of that negotiation.”
Welker went on to ask Johnson whether former President Donald Trump, who opposes the Senate’s immigration deal, played a role in his decision to advance a stand-alone Israel bill.
“You’ve said you speak to him frequently and that you’ve discussed this deal with him quote, at length. Is Donald Trump calling the shots here, Mr. Speaker?” Welker asked.
“Of course not, he’s not calling those shots. I am calling the shots for the House, that’s our responsibility,” he said. “And I have been saying this far longer than President Trump has.”
Johnson argued that the stand-alone Israel bill was a necessary step in the absence of leadership from other corners of the government.
“We cannot wait any longer. The House is willing to lead, and the reason we have to take care of this Israel situation right now is because the situation has escalated,” he said, noting recent airstrikes by the U.S. targeting Iran-backed militant groups in retaliation for the killing of three American soldiers.
Prior to Johnson’s appearance, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told Welker that the Biden administration viewed the letter as a “ploy.”
“We regard the ploy — and we see it as a ploy that’s been put forward on the House side right now — as not being a serious effort to deal with the national security challenges America faces,” he said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
Sullivan did not address Welker’s question about whether President Joe Biden would sign a stand-alone Israel aid bill, but National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has previously indicated that Biden would not, saying in November, “The president would veto an only-Israel bill. We — I think that we’ve made that clear.”