WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that he was ready to make "massive changes" to border policy and challenged House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to join him in taking on the hot-button issue.
"I believe we need significant policy changes at the border, including changes in our asylum system to ensure that we have authorities we need to control the border," Biden said during an event with mayors at the White House. "And I'm ready to act."
The president expressed optimism that the Senate could come to a border deal as early as next week, adding that he hopes it would be a bipartisan package.
"Now the question's for the speaker and House Republicans: Are they ready to act as well? They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem or keep weaponizing an issue to score political points against the president," Biden said.
"I'm ready to solve the problem. I really am. Massive changes, and I mean it sincerely," he continued.
Johnson's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Biden's remarks came during a speech to a bipartisan group of mayors attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting at the White House.
After Biden's speech, a reporter asked him whether the border is secure.
"No, it's not," Biden replied. "I haven't believed it for the last 10 years, and I've said it for the last 10 years. Give me the money."
The president met with congressional leaders this week to discuss a potential bipartisan immigration deal that would be tied to the release of aid for Ukraine and Israel. Prior to the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed optimism about reaching an agreement.
Biden also spoke with Johnson last week, during which the speaker "strongly encouraged the President to use his executive authority to secure the southern border," Johnson's spokesperson said at the time. The speaker also reiterated points from his December letter to the president urging executive action on the border amid record migrant apprehensions, the spokesperson said.
"The crisis at our southern border has deteriorated to such an extent that significant action can wait no longer. It must start now, and it must start with you," Johnson wrote in that letter.
The White House unveiled a $106 billion supplemental funding bill in October, which included aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as funding for U.S. border operations. The border funding request included money for additional border patrol agents, asylum officers and processing personnel, as well as efforts to counter fentanyl, according to the White House — points the president noted during his Friday remarks.
But efforts to pass the bill were blocked by Republicans, who said they would oppose it unless the Biden administration made changes to U.S. border and immigration policies.
Biden's handling of border policy could be impactful on his re-election chances. An NBC News poll conducted in September found that when asked which political party handles immigration issues better, 45% of registered voters picked the GOP, while only 27% picked Democrats. About 14% of single-issue voters picked immigration or border security as a top priority, according to a November poll by NBC News.