President Biden is traveling to Japan for the G-7 summit but opted to cut planned visits to Papua New Guinea and Australia as the deadline to reach a deal on raising the debt limit looms.
“President Biden will return to the United States on Sunday following the completion of the G-7 summit in order to be back for meetings with congressional leaders to ensure that Congress takes action by the deadline to avert default,” the White House said in a press release Tuesday explaining the cancellation of planned stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Biden will still attend the G-7 summit set to take place Friday through Sunday, where the White House expects nations to discuss a range of global issues, including the group’s “unwavering support for Ukraine.”
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But highly anticipated visits to Papua New Guinea and the Quad Summit in Australia were scratched from the schedule so Biden could more quickly return to negotiations over the debt ceiling as a potential default looms in early June.
“The president spoke to Prime Minister Albanese earlier today to inform him that he will be postponing his trip to Australia,” the White House said. “He also invited the prime minister for an official state visit at a time to be agreed by the teams.”
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The White House said the administration also “engaged with the prime minister of Papua New Guinea’s team” to explain the situation, though it was unclear if the planned trip would be rescheduled.
Biden has called on lawmakers from both parties to come together in negotiations over the debt ceiling, the White House noting bipartisan negotiations on the issue have resulted in compromise several times before.
“The president has made clear that members of Congress from both parties and chambers must come together to prevent default, as they have 78 times before,” the White House said. “The president and his team will continue to work with congressional leadership to deliver a budget agreement that can reach the president’s desk.”
The pressing negotiations cut short a trip the White House hoped would help affirm the U.S. commitment to the Pacific amid increased tensions in the region. The Quad alliance of the U.S., Australia, Japan and India hopes to combat the growing influence and threat posed by China.
Biden will instead fly back to Washington having faced criticism from some congressional leaders that the president would be overseas during a crucial period of negotiations.
“Revitalizing and reinvigorating our alliances and advancing partnerships like the Quad remains a key priority for the president,” the White House said. “This is vital to our ability to advance our foreign policy goals and better promote global stability and prosperity. We look forward to finding other ways to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea and the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in the coming year.”
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Republicans have called for reductions in spending as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling, though many of the demanded cuts have faced fierce resistance from Democrats.
If all sides are not able to come to an agreement by early June, the U.S. could default on its debt, which some economists say would lead to a sharp economic downturn.