WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden will shorten a planned trip overseas this week, canceling stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea, with a dispute over the debt ceiling inching toward a resolution.
Biden was planning to travel to Sydney to meet with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia, collectively known as the Quad, at the conclusion of the Group of Seven Summit, which is taking place this week in Hiroshima. However, three White House officials said on Tuesday afternoon that Biden would cancel the second half of his trip, which also included a stop in Papua New Guinea, and return to the U.S. at the conclusion of the summit.
“I’m cutting my trip short. I’m postponing the Australia portion of [the] trip and my stop in Papua New Guinea in order to be back for the final negotiations with congressional leaders,” Biden later confirmed.
He’ll depart on Wednesday for Asia and return to the U.S. on Sunday, the president’s spokeswoman, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in a statement. Jean-Pierre said Biden would return early “in order to be back for meetings with Congressional leaders to ensure that Congress takes action by the deadline to avert default.”
The move underscores the urgency of a looming June 1 deadline for potential economic calamity.
“There’s still work to do,” Biden said at a Tuesday evening reception celebrating Jewish Heritage Month.
He said he would be speaking “regularly” with congressional leaders while he is in Japan, where heads of government are expected to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine. “The nature of the presidency is addressing many of the critical matters all at once,” he said. “So I’m confident, we’re going to make progress toward avoiding default and fulfilling America’s responsibility as a leader on the world stage.”
White House aides had been optimistic about Biden’s ability to finalize a deal, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had said needs to happen by the end of the week for approval in Congress before a possible default, without having to change or cancel his trip.
Biden met on Tuesday afternoon with McCarthy and other congressional leaders at the White House to discuss raising the debt ceiling. A previous meeting between Biden and the leaders failed to produce a breakthrough in talks.
“It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week,” McCarthy told reporters following the Tuesday meeting. “It’s not that difficult to get to an agreement.”
McCarthy was among the Republicans who had been critical of Biden’s planned trip to Japan for the G-7 Summit, which Biden had said he was considering attending virtually to focus on debt-ceiling talks. GOP Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, took to the floor of the Senate to push Biden to call the trip off.
At a briefing on Biden’s overseas travel ahead of the meeting, Biden’s coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby, said the White House was “taking a look” at stops that the U.S. president planned to make in Papua New Guinea and Australia before he returns to Washington.
Kirby stressed that Biden would be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima. He will also engage with the prime ministers of India — Narendra Modi — and Australia — Anthony Albanese — while he is at the economic gathering, Kirby said.
Biden is looking forward to attending the G-7, the Biden adviser underscored.
“We’re reevaluating the rest of the trip right now,” Kirby said, hinting earlier that the visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea could be called off.
Jean-Pierre said later that Biden informed Albanese he would be “postponing his trip to Australia” and invited him to come to Washington on an official state visit at a future date.
Modi will also be honored during a state visit. The Indian leader will already scheduled to meet with Biden in Washington next month.
Biden was preparing to sit down with McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, when the White House signaled his trip abroad could be cut short to due to the burgeoning debt ceiling crisis.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in a letter to McCarthy on Monday, had underscored her estimate that the U.S. was on track to run out of money by early June and could default as soon as the first day of the month if Congress does not renew its borrowing authority.
“Time is running out,” Yellen said Tuesday in remarks to the Independent Community Bankers of America. “Every single day that Congress does not act, we are experiencing increased economic costs that could slow down the U.S. economy.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison. White House Correspondent Francesca Chambers is on Twitter as @Fran_Chambers.