Biden cuts upcoming foreign trip short amid debt ceiling showdown


(WASHINGTON) — With time running short to address the debt ceiling or risk default ,President Joe Biden is cutting his upcoming foreign trip short amid the ongoing debt talks, a source familiar told ABC News Tuesday.

Biden is set to depart Wednesday to meet with G-7 leaders in Japan, but will now travel back Sunday and no longer visit Papua New Guinea or Australia.

Biden would have become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua New Guinea and was scheduled to join the Quad summit in Australia. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans had criticized Biden’s plans to go abroad as lawmakers face a possible June 1 default deadline.

White House spokesman John Kirby earlier Tuesday said they were “reevaluating” the trip but stressed Biden could handle both foreign and domestic priorities while away.

“He can travel overseas and manage our foreign policy and our defense policy and look after our national security commitments in an important region like the Indo-Pacific and also work with congressional leaders to do the right thing, raise the debt ceiling, avoid default so the United States credibility here at home and overseas is preserved,” Kirby said.

Negotiations on the debt ceiling resumed at 3 p.m. Tuesday when Biden, McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met at the White House.

“We don’t have that much time left. We want to make sure we avoid a default but they’ve got to get serious and they haven’t been serious about any of these negotiations,” McCarthy told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott on Tuesday ahead of the meeting.

Asked about Biden’s international trip, McCarthy said he believes “the American public wants to have an American president focused on American problems and solutions.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Tuesday called on Biden to cancel his trip altogether.

“He can’t fly halfway around the globe just as negotiations are gaining momentum,” Cornyn said.

Biden’s schedule isn’t the only issue as the House is set to be out of town starting May 26 and will return on June 5, while the Senate will be away from May 22 to May 29, according to tentative schedules.

Adding pressure ahead of Tuesday’s debt ceiling summit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the economic shock that would result from an unprecedented default “could lead to a recession.”

“It’s essential Congress act as soon as possible,” she said as she delivered remarks in downtown Washington, stating they’re already seeing “the impacts of brinkmanship” and “default would generate an economic catastrophe.”

Yellen has repeatedly warned the U.S. could default in early June, possibly as soon as June 1, though the exact date remains uncertain.

Yellen wrote Monday in a letter to McCarthy the Treasury was already seeing adverse impacts on the economy as negotiations continue — including increased borrowing costs — and more harm could come if lawmakers wait until the final hour to strike a deal.

Schumer also laid out possible consequences of a default.

“If you want to own a home, default would take that dream and run it through the shredder. If you want to protect your 401(k), default would rob you of your livelihood,” Schumer said.

The so-called “Big Five” last met a week ago to talk debt ceiling, a meeting that ended with no movement toward a deal. Staff-level conversations have continued since then between the administration and congressional leaders.

Biden and Democrats have insisted Republicans take default off the table, and separate the debt ceiling from the 2024 budget. Republicans, on the other hand, have said they’ve done their job by passing the Limit, Save, Grow Act last month to raise the debt ceiling and enact deep spending cuts.

Possible areas of agreement on budget talks include clawing back billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 relief and reforming the permitting process for energy projects, sources familiar with the talks told ABC News.

Schumer said Tuesday the fiscal talks “are separate but simultaneous to our responsibility to avoid default.”

“Democrats will not use the threat of default to get what we want,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Nobody should use default as a hostage.”

McConnell, meanwhile, said it’s up to Biden to “pretend the last election didn’t happen or sit down with the speaker and deal responsibly with out nation’s test.”

“Time is of the essence, of the essence. So for the second time, i’ll be glad to sit in at the white house to support speaker McCarthy and to urge President Biden to start operating in reality,” McConnell continued.

Biden said over the weekend he remained “optimistic” both sides be able to come to a solution.

“I really believe there is a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement” he said during a bike ride in Delaware. “I think we’ll be able to do it.”

But McCarthy on Monday downplayed any signs of progress, telling ABC News both sides were “nowhere near coming to a conclusion.”

“I don’t think we’re in a good place,” McCarthy later said during a pro-police press conference. “I know we’re not.”

ABC News’ Allison Pecorin and John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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