When the White House scheduled some overseas visits for President Joe Biden, the work was done months ago, and there was no reason to assume that the Democrat would have to be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May. As the Republicans’ debt ceiling crisis advances, circumstances have changed.
It was against this backdrop that the House GOP conference published a tweet yesterday that read, “With just days until a default on our debt, President Biden has decided to leave the country.” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pushed the same message with reporters, when asked if Biden should change his plans.
“The president is the president of the United States; he can make that decision one way or another. But all I know is we’ve got 16 more days to go. I don’t think I’d spend eight days out of the country.”
At this point, we could spend a few sentences noting that McCarthy is the one who created this mess in the first place and is threatening to impose an economic catastrophe on the country. We could also take a moment to note that the budget negotiations have shifted to proxies, and whether Biden is literally in the White House or not is unlikely to affect the process.
But that’s not the first angle that came to mind. Rather, what’s arguably the most amazing part of the House speaker complaining about Biden’s foreign travel in the midst of a debt ceiling crisis is that the House speaker recently traveled abroad in the midst of his debt ceiling crisis.
It was just two weeks ago, for example, when McCarthy led a congressional delegation in Israel — the day before Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned lawmakers that the GOP’s debt ceiling crisis could lead to a default as early as June 1.
A few days later, McCarthy was in Italy. He also made stops in Jordan and Egypt.
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with a House speaker traveling abroad. This is entirely routine, and something every modern speaker from both parties has done.
But it was a little rich to see McCarthy deride Biden for a foreign excursion so soon after McCarthy returned from his own foreign excursion.
Nevertheless, the Republican leader is getting his wish: As NBC News reported, the White House announced that the president will attend a G-7 summit in Japan this week, but he had other visits planned, and those trips will have to be rescheduled.
“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,” the report added. “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.”
Or put another way, Biden was prepared to do important work abroad, but that’s not going to happen because McCarthy and his party are pushing their own country closer to default.