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Biden to cut Asia trip short to return and negotiate debt ceiling

The U.S. will hit the debt limit as soon as June 1, Treasury Secretary Yellen has warned.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will cut short a visit to Asia as the push to strike a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit grows more urgent, according to a source familiar with the president's plans.  

The White House had emphasized how Biden’s attendance at a summit of the Group of Seven major industrial countries in Japan this week would shore up optimism that the U.S. is able to resolve its differences at home. The president had next planned to travel to Australia for a “Quad” meeting on May 24, with China’s provocative actions in the region expected to be front and center in meetings with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan.

But with a deal still out of reach and the threat of the country’s first-ever default approaching, Biden will return early to Washington to continue negotiations.

Biden will also skip a visit to Papua New Guinea, where he had planned to stop on his way to Sydney to discuss regional security and economic and climate support.

“President Biden has decided to return to the United States on Sunday, immediately following the completion of the G7, to ensure Congress takes action by the deadline to avert default,” a source familiar said.  

Biden is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday afternoon and then depart Wednesday for Hiroshima.

Failure to reach an agreement threatens the possibility of default on the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt, a catastrophic outcome for the U.S. economy. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned this could arrive as early as June 1, repeating the warning on Monday.

Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., have said they will only accept a bill to raise the borrowing limit without strings attached. McCarthy is standing by his position that spending cuts must be agreed to in order to lift the ceiling. The two sides have identified areas of potential agreement, with Biden seeming to open the door to work requirements over the weekend. 

After meeting with congressional leaders last week, Biden said he was “certain” the country could avoid default, yet warned that he would stay in town if necessary to continue to work on a deal.

A meeting set for last Friday was postponed. Staff negotiators met over the weekend and into Monday before the president and the four congressional leaders convened again.

As negotiations drag on, the White House has emphasized the role of Biden’s trip in rallying U.S. allies on economic and security issues globally and its approach to China. 

Work to counter Russia’s war in Ukraine and provocative actions by China in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait were expected to be front and center throughout the president’s visits in Asia. 

Biden had planned to meet with industrial countries in Hiroshima, Japan, followed by a “Quad” meeting in Sydney with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. 

Biden last week declined to say by when he believed a deal had to be reached, telling reporters that “some negotiations happen in the last second.”