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Biden will cut short foreign trips in relation to negotiations on the debt ceiling


President Biden will cut short an upcoming foreign trip, skipping planned stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia amid increasingly urgent negotiations between the White House and Congress on how to raise the government’s debt limit and avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

Biden will still leave Wednesday to attend a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, but will return to the United States on Sunday. He had originally planned to follow up the event in Japan with a stop in Papua New Guinea, the first by a US president, and a stop in Australia to talk about countering China’s influence.

Earlier Tuesday, White House officials had suggested that Biden could cut the trip short because of the ongoing negotiations. The president has spoken with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other congressional leaders as they look to avoid a default by June 1, when officials estimate the government will no longer be able to pay its bills if the debt ceiling has not been raised.

“We’re reassessing the rest of the trip right now,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters Tuesday afternoon, just before Biden met with congressional leaders in the Oval Office.

A short time later, the decision became official, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that had not yet been made public.

Washington is running out of working days to reach a deal on the debt ceiling

Biden’s meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday afternoon was his second in a week. Republicans have demanded far-reaching spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. But the president has long vowed not to renegotiate the debt limit, saying it is the responsibility of both parties to allow the government to borrow enough to meet commitments made by both Democrats and Republicans in previous years.

But Biden has also said he is willing to discuss spending levels with Republicans at the same time they discuss the debt limit, leaving open the possibility that GOP leaders could portray the two issues as linked while Democrats insist they are separated.

In recent weeks, the back-and-forth has taken on the air of political brinkmanship, as Biden warns of the catastrophic effects of a default and Republicans insist it is long past time to cut government spending.

The cancellation of part of Biden’s trip could send a signal to lawmakers and the public in general that he is committed to solving the problem and avoiding the catastrophic effect of a default on the American economy. But it was met with disappointment in Australia and Papua New Guinea, where the presidential visit was supposed to be a major event.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday morning local time that Biden had called him to say he would “have to postpone this visit because of the unfolding difficulties he faces in his negotiations with the US Congress on the U.S. national debt ceiling.”

Albanese said in a statement that he and Biden would work to reschedule the US president’s visit to Australia “at the earliest opportunity” and that he was now speaking with Japan’s Fumio Kishida and India’s Narendra Modi about their plans to travel to Australia for the Quad – the meeting, scheduled for 24 May.

The four leaders might try to meet on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting instead, he said.

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