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Biden prioritizes international travel over debt ceiling crisis as default looms

 May 13, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to depart for Japan next Wednesday to participate in a G-7 summit despite the impending debt ceiling crisis. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described ongoing negotiations with Republicans over the debt limit as "productive," even as no apparent agreement has been made public.

Amid these critical financial discussions, Biden remains firm in his stance, refusing to negotiate a raise in the debt limit to meet U.S. borrowing obligations. Jean-Pierre emphasized that the president would not be swayed from this core position.

She also confirmed that the decision to postpone a meeting initially planned for Friday was a mutual decision by all principals, the Daily Times reported. This meeting will now take place next week as the dialogue continues between the two sides to reach a deal allowing the U.S. to meet its massive $31 trillion debt obligations.

Sticking to the Travel Schedule

Despite the looming financial crisis and its potential to destabilize markets or even plunge the U.S. into default, Jean-Pierre reassured the media that President Biden plans to proceed with his Japan visit mid-next week as initially scheduled. She stated that the president insisted on making it known that he expects to attend the upcoming G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

"He wanted all of you to know that he's expecting to go. That's where I will leave it," she said.

Earlier this week, President Biden had suggested that he might have to postpone or cancel the trip, depending on the progress of the debt ceiling talks, Bloomberg reported.

The Looming Debt Ceiling Crisis

The U.S. is predicted to reach its debt ceiling by early June, as estimated by the Treasury Department. However, a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office suggests a slightly more extended grace period, perhaps until mid-June.

Despite these warnings, President Biden appears unwavering. This approach mirrors his handling of other issues, such as border concerns, where he continues to focus on other aspects of his administration.

Blame Game Amid the Crisis

The political arena continues to heat up as leaders trade blame over the looming crisis. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy criticized the president, stating, "They have no plan, no proposed savings, and no clue." He added, "Apparently, President Biden doesn't want a deal; he wants a default," Nikkei Asia reported.

However, the president took the opportunity to fire back at McCarthy and House Republicans during an event celebrating his administration's environmental achievements. He warned that the House-passed budget, which includes a one-year extension of the debt limit, could lead to a 22% cut across programs that support the environment.

Little Progress Despite Talks

Biden has met with congressional leaders several times, but little progress has been made. House Republicans passed a bill at the end of last month that raises the debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for $4.5 trillion in spending cuts over time. However, the passage of this bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate is doubtful.

White House officials admitted they might need to accept spending cuts or strict caps on future spending to strike a deal. Still, they insisted on preserving Biden's signature climate legislation.

The 14th Amendment Card

Amid these negotiations, President Biden mentioned the possibility of invoking the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling, stating that "default is not an option." The 14th Amendment states that 'the validity of the public debt, authorized by law, shall not be questioned.'

Some legal scholars argue that this allows the Treasury Department to continue borrowing money beyond the current $31.4 trillion debt limit that requires congressional approval to raise or lift.

This controversial suggestion is based on Section 4 of the 14th Amendment. The argument is that it would be unconstitutional for the U.S. to fail to make payments even if the debt limit isn't raised, effectively challenging the debt limit on legal grounds.

Finding Common Ground

While negotiations continued, President Biden showed some willingness to compromise by agreeing to consider cuts in COVID funding, one of the proposals McCarthy suggested after their White House meeting.

"I trust Kevin will try to do what he says," Biden said when asked if he trusted McCarthy. He added, "I don't know how much leeway Kevin McCarthy thinks he has."