Amid Debt Talks, Biden Curtails Foreign Trip

He's skipping Australia, Papua New Guinea
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 16, 2023 8:05 PM CDT
Biden Scraps 2 Legs of Foreign Trip Amid Debt Talks
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talk to reporters Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Debt-limit talks shifted into an encouraging new phase Tuesday as President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy named top emissaries to negotiate a deal to avert an unprecedented national default. The president said he's curtailing his upcoming trip to the Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a historic stop in Papua New Guinea as well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the so-called Quad partnership so he can focus on talks in Washington in hopes of closing an agreement before a June 1 deadline, the AP reports. Biden said he still plans to depart on Wednesday for Hiroshima, Japan, for a Group of Seven summit with leaders from some of the world's major economies. He will return to the US on Sunday.

The fresh set of negotiators means discussions are now largely narrowed to what the White House and McCarthy will accept in order to allow lawmakers to raise the debt limit in the coming days. The speaker said after a meeting with Biden and congressional leaders that a deal was "possible" by week's end, even as—in McCarthy's view—the two sides remained far apart for the moment. Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell will take the lead in negotiations for the Democratic side, while Rep. Garret Graves, a key McCarthy ally, will represent Republicans.

"Now we have a format, a structure," McCarthy said as he returned to the Capitol. Even as the Democratic president and the Republican speaker box around the politics of the issue — with Biden insisting he’s not negotiating over the debt ceiling and McCarthy working to extract spending cuts with the backdrop of a potential default—various areas of possible agreement appeared to be emerging, reports the AP. Among the items on the table: clawing back some $30 billion in untapped COVID-19 money, imposing future budget caps, changing permit regulations to ease energy development, and putting bolstered work requirements on recipients of government aid, according to those familiar with the talks.

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But congressional Democrats are growing concerned about the idea of putting new work requirements for government aid recipients after Biden suggested over the weekend he may be open to such changes. The White House remains opposed to changes in requirements for recipients of Medicaid and food stamp programs, although it is more open to revisions for beneficiaries of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance program.

(More debt ceiling stories.)

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