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Amid G-7 diplomacy, Biden predicts a debt limit deal will get done

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Amid a busy day of diplomacy at the G-7 summit Saturday, President Joe Biden expressed cool confidence that the White House would eventually reach a deal with House Republicans and avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt.

Asked if he was worried about the talks hours after his press secretary seemed to indicate that talks had gone off the rails, Biden replied: “Not at all.”

Noting that he’s been in the middle of similar negotiations many times over his career in politics, the president spoke about how talks “go in stages.” He appeared relaxed and expressed confidence that “we’ll be able to avoid a default and get something decent done.”

Biden made the comments while in the midst of a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was set to host him and the leaders of India and Japan in Sydney next week. The president just days ago canceled that part of his trip so he could return home and deal with the budget impasse and the looming possibility of default.

Biden apologized to Albanese, who seemed willing — at least publicly — to brush it under the rug.

“I understand the circumstances that you’re dealing with. I would have done exactly the same thing,” Albanese said. “All politics is really local.”

Biden responded in kind: “All politics may be local but our friendship is permanent.”

The president’s expressed calm about the state of negotiations contrasted somewhat with more strident statements from aides, including White House communications director Ben LaBolt, who blasted the GOP for “taking the economy hostage and pushing us to the brink of default.”

In his statement, LaBolt blasted Republicans’ proposed budget cuts as “extreme” but suggested there is still “a path forward to arrive at a reasonable bipartisan agreement if Republicans come back to the table to negotiate in good faith.”

The buzz over Biden’s domestic politics has been something of an anxious undercurrent to this three-day meeting of the world’s leading democracies. The president’s comments came sandwiched between summit meetings focused on economic competition and development in the “Global South” and coincided with the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and issuance of G-7 communiques on China and other shared priorities.

Stating that its intention wasn’t decoupling from China economically but “de-risking and diversifying,” the G-7 sought to reassure Beijing that it’s not looking to thwart its economic development. Instead, it planned to focus on efforts to strengthen manufacturing supply chains and ensure access to critical minerals in an effort to grow economically and lessen dependence on the world’s second largest economy.

The G-7 also issued a joint statement against “economic coercion” that did not reference China — or any country — by name but vowed that member nations would “use our existing tools, review their effectiveness and develop new ones as needed to deter and counter the use of coercive economic measures.”

To some, Biden’s cancellation of additional diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific played into China’s hands, allowing Beijing to argue to other nations in the region that the U.S. is an unreliable partner.

During the meeting with Albanese, the two leaders signed a statement of intent to increase joint efforts to curtail climate change and expressed enthusiasm about additional cooperation on defense matters.

But during a briefing earlier in the day, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, acknowledged that the other leaders attending the summit have been curious about the situation in Washington.

“It is definitely a subject of interest here at the G7,” he said during a briefing with reporters. “Countries want to have a sense of how these negotiations are going to play out.”

He added: “This is not generating alarm or a kind of vibration in the room. I would just say that countries are keenly interested in what is a significant story. And the president has been able to tell them that he believes that we can get to a good result here.”

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