Debt ceiling crisis: Biden says he is ‘confident’ US will reach deal and avoid default – live | US news

Biden says ‘confident’ US will avoid default

Joe Biden says he is “confident” that a deal will be reached to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a US government default.

“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget, that America will not default,” the president said in a speech at the White House following his meeting yesterday afternoon with the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and other leaders of Congress.

“We’re going to come together because there’s no alternative way to do the right thing for the country. We have to move on.”

Key events

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Stepping way from Washington and the debt ceiling fight for a moment, Ron DeSantis signed a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills earlier, using a Christian school in Tampa as a stage for his latest culture-war-fueled move towards declaring a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Ron DeSantis.
Ron DeSantis. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

In front of a cheering crowd, the governor signed bills banning gender-affirming care for minors, restricting pronoun use in public schools and forcing people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex in some situations.

“It’s kind of sad that we even have some of these discussions,” DeSantis said, speaking from a lectern carrying the slogan: Let Kids Be Kids.

“We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago? Now this is something? They’re having third-graders declare pronouns? We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida.”

DeSantis is expected to announce his run for the presidency soon. He places a clear second in Republican polling – if a long way behind the former president Donald Trump.

Observers – and donors – have questioned whether his hard-right record in Florida, enabled by Republican supermajorities in the state legislature, will place him too far from the mainstream to win a general election against Joe Biden, should he secure the GOP nomination.

A six-week abortion ban and a legal fight with Disney, over its opposition to some of his anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, have also been raised as possible obstacles to success for DeSantis on the national stage.

Here’s more, on another aspect of Florida politics rather less thrilling for DeSantis:

Progressive House Democrats are signaling their opposition to Republican attempts to tighten access to federal anti-poverty programs.

Here’s Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts:

We should NOT be cutting access to critical safety net programs, ever.

Full stop.

— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) May 17, 2023

And Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar:

Kevin McCarthy is extorting the President of the United States and the entire world economy to take away healthcare and food assistance from working people.

Stop pretending it’s anything else.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 16, 2023

Yesterday, Democratic senator John Fetterman said he may not vote for a measure to raise the debt ceiling that cuts support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often called food stamps. Here’s his statement:

No one I’ve ever met wants to stay on SNAP for life. They need it to make ends meet. I sure didn’t come to Washington to take vital assistance away from working people at the same time big bank CEOs nearly crash the economy and get to jet off to Hawaii scot-free. I cannot in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty.

He raised the issue again in a Tuesday hearing with former executives from the failed Signature and Silicon Valley banks:

‘Shouldn’t you have a working requirement after [the U.S. bails out] your bank?’

In a hearing with execs of failed SVB & Signature Bank, Sen. John Fetterman questioned why the GOP is ‘more preoccupied’ with work requirements for SNAP recipients than keeping banks accountable.

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 16, 2023

The flare up in the debt ceiling standoff has provided Donald Trump with a perhaps welcome break from the public spotlight, as he deals with a swirl of scandals, investigations and prosecutions. But the Guardian’s Peter Stone reports that Trump hasn’t relented in his zeal to attack his foes, raising concerns among some legal observers:

As Donald Trump’s legal troubles mount at the federal, state and local levels, the ex-president and his lawyers are banking on their political allies in the Republican party to make attacks on a New York prosecutor who has charged Trump with criminal offenses, and to also get them to help derail investigations that endanger his 2024 campaign.

Former prosecutors and members of both parties have voiced strong criticism about the drives by Trump, his lawyers and Republican House allies to attack prosecutors who have filed charges against Trump or are investigating him, calling such moves antithetical to democratic principles and the rule of law.

Such criticism has not deterred Trump, his lawyers or pliable Republicans from trying to discredit prosecutors with political attacks that in part reflect Trump’s lack of success in convincing courts to curb prosecutors.

In April, the House judiciary committee chairman, Jim Jordan, a key Trump ally, publicly launched an inquiry into the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, soon after he filed a 34-count indictment of Trump for falsifying business records tied to alleged hush money payments that Trump made in 2016 to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claimed Trump had an affair with her.

In a Fox News interview last month, Jordan echoed Trump’s attacks on Bragg for “interfering” in the coming election charging that “Alvin Bragg used federal tax dollars to go after a former president, to indict a former president for no crime, [which] interferes with the federal election”.

The day so far

Negotiators representing Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy are finally getting to work on finding an agreement to raise the default ceiling before America potentially defaults on 1 June. McCarthy says Republicans want tighter requirements on government aid recipients in any deal and no tax hikes, while Biden said he wasn’t interested in further restricting access to anti-poverty programs, underscoring an issue that could prove a wedge before the two sides. The president then left town for Japan on a truncated trip to Asia, where he’ll meet with leaders from the G7 as well as countries in the Quad, an alliance intended to counter China’s influence.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s news so far:

  • Biden deflected criticism that by skipping planned visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea, he’s undercutting his administration’s efforts to build alliances against Beijing in the Pacific.

  • The supreme court declined to block Illinois’s ban on military-style weapons from taking effect while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

  • The House GOP appears ready to block a Democratic resolution that would expel indicted fabulist George Santos from the chamber. They would instead refer the resolution to the ethics committee, which is investigating him.

Joe Biden, meanwhile, said he wasn’t interested in imposing work requirements “of any consequences” on federal anti-poverty programs.

His comments, at the tail end of his speech about an hour ago, indicate that the new requirements proposed by Republicans could be a sticking point in the negotiations with Kevin McCarthy.

Here’s a clip of the president’s comments:

President Biden says he will support only limited safety net work requirements, which he has previously given conflicting answers on and which have emerged as a top GOP priority:

“I’m not going to accept any work requirements that go much beyond what is already [there].”

— The Recount (@therecount) May 17, 2023

McCarthy says no to tax hikes, yes to work requirements for aid in debt limit deal

Kevin McCarthy just concluded a press conference alongside Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate, where he ruled out increasing taxes in a debt ceiling deal and signaled he would push for stricter work requirements for recipients of federal government aid.

“No!” he replied when asked if he would consider higher taxes on wealthy Americans as part of a debt limit compromise.

He also justified the GOP’s push to insist people in programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work in order to receive the benefits. “Why wouldn’t he want to help people get out of poverty?” McCarthy asked, tying stricter work requirements to the programs’ effectiveness – a link studies have found is uneven.

He also said he would stick to a promise made during his contentious election as speaker of the House to give lawmakers 72 hours to review any legislation before it is voted on.

“It takes so many days to get through the Senate, so many days through the House. We have a 72 hour rule, which I’m not going to break. I think the American public and all the members should have 72 hours to read what we end up with, if we’re able to end up with it,” McCarthy said.

As he departed the White House’s Roosevelt Room after speaking to reporters, Joe Biden was asked if he had given China a win by cancelling his visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“No,” he replied. “We’re still formidable allies.”

And while it was difficult to hear exactly what he said, the president signaled he intended to speak or meet in the future with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

In order to return to Washington DC on Sunday, Joe Biden canceled visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea intended to shore up America’s alliances against China.

In his speech at the White House, Biden signaled he was aware of the criticism that his administration isn’t taking efforts to counter China’s influence seriously.

“In the meantime, I’ve spoken to the Australian leader [Anthony] Albanese … I’m going to be seeing him at the G7,” Biden said, adding he would also see the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, at the meeting. Biden was to meet with the leaders at a meeting of the Quad regional group in Australia, which has now been canceled.

“The Quad members will be there, will get a chance to talk separately at the meeting, but it’s unlikely I’m going to be going on to Australia,” the president said.

Joe Biden said he would remain in touch with his negotiators along with Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy during his trip to meet G7 leaders in Japan.

“I’ll be in constant contact with my team while I’m at the G7 and be in close touch with Speaker McCarthy and other leaders as well,” he said. “What I have done in anticipation that we won’t get it all done till I get back is, I’ve cut my trip short in order to be [here] for the final negotiations and sign the deal with the majority leader.”

He said he expected to return to Washington DC on Sunday and hold a press conference.

Biden says ‘confident’ US will avoid default

Joe Biden says he is “confident” that a deal will be reached to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a US government default.

“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget, that America will not default,” the president said in a speech at the White House following his meeting yesterday afternoon with the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and other leaders of Congress.

“We’re going to come together because there’s no alternative way to do the right thing for the country. We have to move on.”

Supreme court leaves Illinois assault weapons ban in effect

The supreme court has declined to block a ban on military-style weapons approved by Illinois’s legislature from taking effect, the Washington Post reports:

BREAKING; Supreme Court leaves in place Illinois restrictions on military-style weapons while legal battles continue. No noted dissents

— Robert Barnes (@scotusreporter) May 17, 2023

Lawmakers in the midwestern state had passed the measure about six months after seven people were killed and more than 30 injured in a mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

While the supreme court did not stop the law from taking effect, it allowed legal challenges filed against it to proceed in state and federal courts.

As we await Joe Biden’s speech on the debt limit, CNN reports that House Republicans believe they have the votes to refer the resolution expelling George Santos to the ethics committee – thus keeping him in the chamber for a while longer:

A sign McCarthy will have the votes to refer Santos expulsion resolution to House Ethics. Freshman GOP Rep. Mike Lawler says he will vote to refer to committee. Dems, including Jeffries, are expected to oppose referral to ethics to try to force expulsion vote now

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 17, 2023

Lawler to @kristin__wilson: “The committee will move very expeditiously. He won’t be here for long. Whether he cuts a deal and resigns, or the committee makes a recommendation to expel him. What the Democrats are doing is bullshit. It’s just politics.”

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 17, 2023

As we await the president’s remarks on the debt ceiling, let’s check in on the saga of George Santos, the Republican House representative who admitted to lying prolifically and is now the subject of a federal indictment.

House Democrat Robert Garcia yesterday introduced a resolution to expel him from the chamber, but it needs the support of two-thirds of lawmakers to pass and it’s unclear if Republicans, who control the House by a small majority, will support it.

According to the Democratic House whip, Katherine Clark, it’s possible the resolution’s fate will become known today, when it could come up for consideration. Republicans may vote to send the resolution to the House ethics committee, which is investigating Santos.

Biden to speak on efforts to prevent US government default

The White House has just announced that Joe Biden will speak at 10.45am ET “on preventing a first-ever government default”.

The speech was not previously scheduled. The president still plans to later this morning begin his journey to Japan as part of a trip that was cut short so he could return to Washington to deal with the debt limit standoff.

We’ll cover the speech on this blog as it happens.

If high-stakes negotiations and last-minute deals over raising the debt ceiling all sound familiar, that’s because they are.

This has happened repeatedly in Washington over the last decade or so, as Punchbowl News points out. Here’s a list of all the increases agreed to, and how they were agreed to, since 1993:

I am a nerd, so here are all (i think!) the debt-limit increases since 1993

April 1993 — clean
August 1993 — part of an omnibus spending bill
Feb 1996 — declaration congress would raise DL before march 1996. And ensured social security would be paid.

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 17, 2023

March 1996 — DL with strings (prioritizing)
March 1996 — DL within “contract with America advancement act” — host of Republican priorities.
August 1997 — DL in the “balanced budget act of 1997”
June 2002 — clean
May 2003 — clean
Nov 2004 — clean
March 2006 — clean

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 17, 2023

Sept 2007 — clean
july 2008 — Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008
oct 2008 — TARP
feb 2009 — American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
dec 2009 — clean
feb 2010 — statutory pay go, Elimination of Duplicative and Wasteful Spending,

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 17, 2023

aug 2011 — Budget Control Act
Feb 2013 — No Budget, No Pay
Oct 2013 — spending bill
Feb 2014 — Clean (mostly)
Nov 2015 — Bipartisan Budget Act
Sept. 2017 -— Spending bill, disaster relief
Feb 2018 — Bipartisan budget act (spending bill, etc)

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 17, 2023

Aug 2019 — Bipartisan Budget Act (increases discretionary spending limits, suspends the debt limit, and modifies budget enforcement procedures.)
Dec. 2021 — clean

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 17, 2023

This morning, Kevin McCarthy went on CNBC to take a mini victory lap after Joe Biden agreed to talks over raising the debt ceiling.

But the Republican House speaker warned that the two sides don’t have much time left to reach an agreement. Here’s what he had to say:

“The President should appoint either himself or people from his administration to negotiate directly with myself. The challenge here is the President waited 104 days until he came to this conclusion,” says @SpeakerMcCarthy on the debt ceiling. “The timeline is very short.”

— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) May 17, 2023

Democrats ready plan B in case debt limit negotiations fail

The top Democrat in the House of Representatives said the party is moving ahead with a parliamentary tactic that could force a vote on raising the debt ceiling in case negotiations between Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy fail.

In a letter to Democrats, the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, encouraged his lawmakers to support a discharge petition filed by Brendan Boyle, the ranking member of the budget committee. The unusual maneuver circumvents that usual committee process bills must undergo by bringing legislation directly to the floor, but is time consuming and faces uncertain prospects of success.

“In the next few weeks, at the reckless urging of former President Trump, we confront the possibility that right-wing extremists will intentionally plunge our country into a default crisis. Emerging from the White House meeting, I am hopeful that a real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution that prevents a default,” wrote Jeffries, who attended the meeting yesterday where Biden and McCarthy agreed to appoint deputies to negotiate over an agreement.

“However, given the impending June 1 deadline and urgency of the moment, it is important that all legislative options be pursued in the event that no agreement is reached. Accordingly, later on this morning, Budget Committee Ranking Member Brendan Boyle will file a discharge petition to provide a vehicle that may be necessary to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” he continued, asking every Democrat to sign the petition today.

Biden scores own goal on Asian diplomacy with cancelled trip

A hint of Joe Biden’s newfound seriousness over the debt limit negotiations emerged yesterday, shortly before his meeting with Republican Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders. The giveaway was an unnamed administration official telling reporters that Biden would cut short his trip to Asia and return to Washington work on a deal – which the White House later confirmed would indeed happen, shortly after the president reversed his policy of not negotiating over the debt ceiling and appointed deputies to sit down with Republicans.

While Biden will still travel to Japan to meet with G7 leaders and the country’s prime minister, he’s cut out visits to two other countries that were intended to shore up the influence of Washington and its allies against China. Biden will no longer visit Australia and attend a meeting of nations in the Quad, a group formed to stand against Beijing’s influence. Nor will he make the first ever visit by an American president to Papua New Guinea, a stop seen as intended to bring the country under the US’s wing.

From Australia, the Guardian’s Daniel Hurst reports that by cancelling his visits to the two countries, Biden has dealt a blow to US diplomacy in Asia:

The Chinese government is probably the biggest winner from Joe Biden’s decision to pull out of his trip to Australia and Papua New Guinea, forcing the cancellation of the Quad summit in Sydney.

Chinese state media outlets won’t need to muster much creative energy to weave together some of Beijing’s preferred narratives: that the US is racked by increasingly severe domestic upheaval and is an unreliable partner, quick to leave allies high and dry.

To make matters worse for the US’s standing in the region, Biden’s planned visit to PNG on Monday had been trumpeted as a clear statement of intent about his commitment to the Pacific amid growing competition for influence with China.

You can read the rest of his story below:

Finally, Biden and McCarthy agree to negotiate over debt ceiling

Good morning, US politics blog readers. Joe Biden spent weeks refusing to negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, even as the party gave no ground on the issue and the 1 June deadline for a potential US government default grew nearer.

Yesterday, the president met with the speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, and the two men agreed to appoint deputies to hash out a bipartisan measure that will probably include some policy concessions demanded of Democrats by conservatives and also raise the limit.

In a sign of how seriously he is taking the deadline, Biden cut short the trip to Asia he will begin today, scrapping a stop in Australia and the first visit to Papua New Guinea by a US president. And while the government estimates it will need an increase approved by the start of June to avoid missing bond and salary payments for the first time in history, lawmakers are under an even tighter deadline.

Congress only works certain days, and McCarthy has estimated a framework must be agreed to by the end of this week in order for legislation to be approved by both the House and Senate.

Here’s a look at what we expect to happen today:

  • Biden is departing Washington DC for Japan, where he’ll meet with prime minister Fumio Kishida and attend a summit of G7 leaders.

  • McCarthy and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell will brief reporters in the Capitol at 11:15am ET.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will take questions from reporters as Air Force One heads to Japan. She’ll be joined by national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

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