By Jeff Mason
HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Democratic negotiators told President Joe Biden on Friday that they are making “steady progress” in talks with Republicans aimed at avoiding a U.S. default, according to a White House official.
Biden received an update on the talks with aides to Republican House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Friday morning in Japan, where he is traveling for the Group of 7 (G7) summit, officials said.
“The president’s team informed him that steady progress is being made,” according to one of the officials, who declined to be named.
“The president directed his team to continue pressing forward for a bipartisan agreement and made clear the need to protect essential programs for hardworking Americans and the economic progress of the past two years as negotiations head into advanced stages. He remains confident that Congress will take necessary action to avoid default.”
Republicans have refused to vote to lift the debt ceiling past its $31.3 trillion limit unless Biden and his Democrats agree to spending cuts in the federal budget.
The U.S. government may default on some debts as early as June 1 unless Congress votes to lift the debt ceiling, and economists fear the country will slide into a recession.
Biden cut his trip to Asia short and now plans to return home on Sunday to finish the negotiations, eliminating stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia aimed at countering China’s influence in the region.
In the meantime, White House adviser Steve Ricchetti, budget director Shalanda Young and legislative adviser Louisa Terrell are leading discussions for the administration.
A similar 2011 standoff over the debt limit led to a historic downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, sparking a sell-off in stocks and pushing the government’s borrowing costs higher.
The current deadlock has rattled investors, sending the cost of insuring exposure to U.S. government debt to record highs. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Monday found that three-fourths of Americans fear a default would take a heavy toll on families like theirs.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Raju Gopalakrishnan)