Mayor Brandon Johnson lobbied the Biden White House and some Democrats on Capitol Hill Thursday, seeking a boost in federal help to deal with Chicago’s ever-growing crisis of incoming migrants, many of whom are asylum-seekers from Venezuela.
Whether House Republicans, led by their new speaker, Mike Johnson, are inclined to provide more assistance to mayors of Democratic cities dealing with the crisis’ soaring costs is not yet clear and in any case may not happen quickly.
“The burden that the city of Chicago has had to bear is not sustainable, quite frankly,” Johnson told the Sun-Times after his series of meetings.
Johnson is looking for federal help at a time when the new speaker’s first challenge is to prevent a federal government shutdown on Nov. 17, when a stopgap funding measure expires.
Here’s the rundown of Johnson’s day in Washington, D.C., where Johnson made some of his rounds with Denver Mayor Mike Johnston:
Who Johnson met with: At the White House, Johnson met withchief of staff Jeff Zients; intergovernmental affairs chief Tom Perez; and advisers from the Department of Homeland Security. All these players have been in constant touch with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the mayor.
Johnson also met with Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Colorado Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, as well as Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona independent.
Among those in the Illinois House delegation, Johnson huddled with Democratic Reps. Delia Ramirez, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Jonathan Jackson, Lauren Underwood and Brad Schneider. He also met briefly with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, and Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Maxwell Frost of Florida.
Johnson’s long shot $5 billion ask: “I’ve said that as much as $5 billion is really what the number should be,” Johnson said, citing a national figure of which Chicago presumably would get a good chunk of. “Other folks think the number could be higher.” He said he was in “lockstep” with the Denver mayor in making that request.
The Biden White House isn’t backing $5 billion bid: It’s highly unlikely to happen, since the Biden administration is seeking nowhere near that figure.
The White House is asking Congress to include $1.4 billion in supplemental funding to help migrants.
Asked about the $5 billion request at the White House briefing Thursday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We do need that $1.4 billion. That’s what we believe is needed. … I can’t speak to the $5 billion. I’m not sure what else they’re asking for on top of the $1.4 billion.”
Krishnamoorthi, on the House floor, said, “Many mayors, including Chicago’s Mayor Brandon Johnson are asking that cities and states be allocated $5 billion in emergency funding to help them with the influx of new arrivals. Most importantly in their request is the flexibility to decide for themselves how to allocate the funds, since different cities have different needs.”
Said Johnson of his day in D.C., “I believe the biggest takeaway is that there is a commitment for additional resources. The question is how much.”