LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The clock ticks on debt ceiling talks and that controversial Trump town hall.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Instead of taking default of the table, Speaker McCarthy is taking default hostage.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't think there's enough progress for the leaders to get back together.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: With the clock ticking on the debt ceiling, the U.S. edges closer to a potential first-ever default, and President Biden and congressional leaders punt the next round of high-stakes negotiations to next week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is we have a crisis at the border that is getting worse.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The White House under fire as a growing number of migrants arrive at the southern order after a pandemic era deportation policy ends.
Plus -- TRUMP: You are a nasty person, I'll tell you that.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: -- in his first town hall of the 2024 election cycle, Republican frontrunner former President Donald Trump unleashes a cascade of lies and insults, next.
Good evening and welcome to Washington Week.
I am Laura Barron-Lopez.
Tonight, President Biden is juggling two challenges that could dominate and define his summer.
Here in Washington, it is crunch time for the president and congressional leaders to reach an agreement on raising the country's borrowing limit.
With less than three weeks to go before the U.S. is expected to run out of money and begin defaulting on debts, a second round of high-stakes talks has been postponed until next week.
MCCARTHY: I have not seen from there a seriousness of the White House that they want to deal.
It seems like they want to default more than they want to deal.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The announcement comes after a Tuesday meeting at the White House ended without a breakthrough.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. President: I told congressional leaders I am prepared to begin a separate discussion about my budget and spending priorities but not under the threat of default.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: But there is another potential crisis looming at the U.S./Mexico border, after the pandemic era deportation policy, Title 42, expired Thursday night.
Officials are bracing for an influx of migrants seeking asylum.
And on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned migrants of new restrictions.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, Homeland Security Secretary: Our borders are not open.
People who cross our border unlawfully and without a legal basis to remain will be promptly processed and removed.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: but Republicans and some Democrats are critical of the administration.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): President Biden has overseen the worst crisis at our border in our nation's history.
With Title 42 expiring, you're going to will have a major catastrophe that is a crisis entirely of his own making.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Joining me to discuss this and more, Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Senior Political Analyst at CNN.
And with me here in the studio, Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, White House Correspondent for The New York Times, and Ali Vitali, Capitol Hill Correspondent at NBC News.
Thank you all.
Zolan, I want to start with you, because the second meeting that was originally set for today between President Biden and congressional leaders was delayed to next week.
What are you hearing from the White House about that, about why it was delayed?
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, White House Correspondent, The New York Times: I think it would be very normal if everyone got that news and thought, oh, man, are we ready for even more delays in this negotiation, is this going anywhere?
When you talk to White House officials, they are framing this as a actually positive development here, for as much as we want to take that with a grain of salt.
But they did paint a scenario of, look, if they both came out, Kevin McCarthy and Biden, after a meeting and pretty much had nothing to say or nothing to show in terms of progress or meeting a consensus, then how would that shape public perception about whether or not they are actually going to make a deal.
Just because they are not meeting too doesn't mean the White House isn't actually talking to congressional staffers as well, which is where a lot of these details are actually going to get figured out, whether that be reaching a consensus on something like permitting reform as well, which might be a possibility.
But, look, I mean, earlier in the week, if we would have asked or if this topic was brought up, I might have been talking about the 14th Amendment right now as a possibility for the White House.
It does seem when you talk to officials involved in this that talks are ongoing and they seem to be looking towards next week just in terms of continuing negotiations.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And Today, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that their X date estimate is June 1st, like the Treasury Department, Ali.
What are your Hill sources telling you about where the discussions are at after the meetings this week?
ALI VITALI, Capitol Hill Correspondent, NBC News: Well, I think that you are right, that the White House is trying to say that there is a glass half full view of punting this meeting.
I know that these negotiators from the White House, from the core four congressional leaders, they have all been meeting on Capitol Hill for a few hours a day.
Certainly, we're starting to see some consensus come out of those backdoor meetings around, you're right, permitting reform, clawing back COVID money.
Those are the things they are finding as points of consensus.
But I think what's important to note here is that if we're finding points of consensus, then it means that someone has moved off of their initial position.
Because right now, the public posture from the White House and Democrats is that they want a clean debt ceiling hike with a parallel conversation about spending.
And the point of view from Republicans remains that they are only doing those things if they are done in tandem.
You cannot do one without the other, and they are not separate tracks, they very much the same road.
So, publicly, no one is saying any different.
And I also think that when you think about the progress coming out of these talks, the word that I heard from one source was that it is notional progress.
That's not inspiring, but if you are an optimist, and I choose to be, because these days in Washington, it's depressing to be anything else, then I do think that that tees up higher stakes for next week.
And I think the other thing I'm looking at is, and all of us have covered President Biden well enough to know, the personal side of these relationships in negotiations are really critically important to him.
And then only thing that I heard out of last week's meeting was that it was very acrimonious, that the mood was very tense, that there was a lot of back and forth between McCarthy and the president, that doesn't sound like a productive atmosphere for negotiating, it sounds like people going back to their bases.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So, Ali, you are little bit optimistic.
But, Ron, how does President Biden's experience when he was vice president handling debt ceiling talks shape what we are seeing right now?
RON BROWNSTEIN, Senior Editor, The Atlantic: Laura, there is a long history here that shapes how Biden is approaching this.
And in many ways, it has taken Biden 180 degrees from where he was.
In 2011, Barack Obama did agree to negotiations with the Republicans, then led by Speaker John Boehner, over budget matters in the context of an increase in the debt ceiling.
It's important to recognize that even then when Obama was in those negotiations, he did not view the debt ceiling increase as something that Republicans were giving him in return for concessions on the budget.
He felt that the budget talks had to be balanced internally in themselves between spending cuts and tax increases and the debt ceiling, in effect, was the legislative vehicle they were using, the train they were putting these budget talks on.
But, nonetheless, he was willing to negotiate while the debt ceiling increase was pending and Joe Biden, at the beginning, was at the forefront of that process.
It was the Biden talks that Eric Cantor, Boehner's number two, that were the dominant effort through the spring of 2011.
And when that hit a dead end, Boehner and Obama began their own backdoor negotiations over a much more ambitious package than we are talking about today.
As some of you will remember, that was era symbols (ph) and (INAUDIBLE).
There were a lot of people in Washington talking about a grand bargain to reduce the deficit and Obama and Boehner got really to like the five-yard line and then it fell apart and they were forced at the last-minute to scramble together to put together a package largely between Biden and Mitch McConnell to avoid default.
Obama and his team came out of that experience and said never again.
They were never going to negotiate the budget with the threat of default over their head.
And to the point, where in 2013, when Republicans tried it again, Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, went to the White House and insisted that Obama keep Biden out of the talks because he was worried that Biden would be too willing to make a deal with McConnell.
And so for Biden to be the one to reach this point of wanting to keep these tracks separate, and I do believe that if they reach a deal, they will find a way for each side can say -- Republicans can say, we got consensus from the debt ceiling, and Democrats are going to say they kept it separate, the fact that Biden has taken this hard line is a reflection of how scarring and tumultuous that 2011 experience was for everyone involved on the White House side.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right.
Because so money Democrats now, Dan, say these have to be separate, they cannot be tethered together.
The debt ceiling has to be passed on its own, clean.
Sometimes these perfomative meetings that we saw like this week can actually be beneficial.
Do you think that there was movement made this week?
DAN BALZ, Chief Correspondent, The Washington Post: I do.
When we talked about this a few weeks ago, which was right after the Republicans had passed their budget and debt ceiling increase, it was a stark reminder of how far apart the two sides were.
And I thought that the meeting that took place this week was predictable in many ways, which is to say both sides went in with hard positions.
They stuck to those positions.
But when they finished, they agreed to keep talking.
They agreed to have a meeting, which we know has been postponed a bit.
But the staff started talking.
And I think that says we are in a different place today than we were a couple of weeks ago.
That doesn't mean it is going to be easy.
I agree with Ron.
I think that in the end, if they are able to reach a deal, each side will be able to claim that they got what they wanted in terms of the structuring of it.
Biden will say these were separate and the Republicans will say they were tied together.
But I think that one of the other differences this time compared to 2011 is that Kevin McCarthy is in an even weaker position than John Boehner was as speaker.
And whatever -- if they are able to reach an agreement with the White House, will he be able to sell that to enough of his conference to be able to get it through?
And I think that's why -- and, again, I would not expect any significant progress next week.
I think we are still a ways away.
These go right to the deadline and I think we will see that again.
ALI VITALI: I will say, though, I think it's fascinating, the dynamics here.
We talk a lot, rightfully, I think, about dynamics within the Republican conference and what McCarthy has to be able to bring home to his base to actually get this over the finish line.
And I think it is so striking that you even see the Senate effectively acknowledging that, because McConnell is really taking a backseat here, happy to let McCarthy take the lead, politically, happy to have him to take the arrows, you've got to imagine.
But also just recognizing the realities of who has a tighter grip on their conference right now and who is navigating the most narrow majorities, and it is certainly McCarthy.
He has got such a tough job here.
We even watched what it took to get the bill through in the first place.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And McCarthy's life could have just been made or difficult by the fact that the former president said why not head towards a default.
But I do want to get to immigration and Title 42.
Title 42 just ended, the deportation policy that started under Trump, on Thursday, Zolan.
But the Biden White House is putting in place another Trump-era deportation policy, asylum policy.
What exactly does this new policy do and how does it affect asylum seekers?
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS: Yes.
Well, they are trying to.
I mean, we will see if it doesn't get challenged in court.
But right now, you have a situation where after two years of internal within the White House, internal debate and infighting over how fast to unwind Trump-era policies and after a certain reliance on Title 42, which did seal the border to many asylum-seekers, this is being lifted and you are having another policy that looks very similar to another Trump-era rule being put in place.
That policy basically says that if you are a migrant that did not apply for protection in a country on the way to the border, say you did not apply in Guatemala, you did not apply in Mexico, and you get to the border and you're shown to not have applied for protection, then you are not eligible for protection in the United States.
This was something that was very controversial during the Trump administration.
The White House says that their plan differentiates by basically expanding a limited sort of narrow pathway for humanitarian parole, which is temporary.
It isn't the same as asylum.
How will it impact migrants?
I mean, I remember being in Guatemala and going to their asylum office and seeing four staffers handling hundreds of asylum cases as well.
The Biden administration's own State Department has said some of these places are dangerous as well.
So, they're definitely going to face criticism here.
But it shows you how squeezed the president is politically on this.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Ali, Secretary Mayorkas was saying that the immigration system is broken over and over again, calling on Congress to do something.
But the reality is that Congress is not going to do anything, right?
ALI VITALI: Yes, it's unlikely, right?
I mean, you can throw cold Congressional water on most things because we are in a state of divided government right now with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate.
That's not to say that not everyone -- everyone seems to agree that this is a broken system.
It is just the views are widely divergent on how to fix it.
On the House side, you watched them pass a border package this week that was in theory one of their signature policies that they wanted to pass upon taking the majority, but even that required so much cajoling on the part of leadership to be able to get the votes that they needed to pass that through.
I think that's notable when you consider the Republicans.
And then on the Senate side of the building, you have Senator Sinema and Tillis getting some bipartisan backing from their friends on both sides of the aisle to basically an extension of Title 42 for two years.
And even that, I think, will face significant challenges because the Senate realities are so different than the House.
So, I don't have high hopes for anything.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Ron, I want to give you a final thought on immigration.
You said that the country is facing an immigration paradox.
RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, to the point about how comprehensive reform really is needed for all of this, we are in this strange situation where we have just lived through the decade that had the second lowest, slowest growth in population in American history, 2010 through 2020.
The only decade that was slower in population growth was the depression.
And we are all paying a price for that.
You see businesses that are struggling to find enough workers, and in part because of that tight labor market.
That's one of the reasons why the Fed is keeping interest rates so high because of wage inflation rooted in the tight labor market, which means everyone in the country, in effect, is paying a tax for the lack of population growth over the last century.
And we are now debating how to keep out these throngs of people trying to come to the U.S. Obviously, people kind of massing at the border is not the way to solve the problem in our prime age working force but it is kind of paradoxical that we are struggling with keeping people out even as we don't have enough people to fill the jobs and to drive the economic growth that we need.
And that is the kind of problem that can only be solved through congressional legislation.
Don't forget, in 2006 and in 2013, each time, first time under a Republican president, second time under a Democrat president, I bipartisan majority in the Senate was able to come together on a comprehensive bill that included tougher border security, more pathways for people to work, legal status for people who are here, who are undocumented.
Mitch McConnell voted for the first one, Marco Rubio voted for the second.
Each time the House would not take up the bill, ultimately, it's very hard to imagine we can do any more than manage the worst of this problem without more congressional action than we have seen since the 1990s.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And we should note that when Title 42 ended Thursday evening, that, so far, there hasn't been this dramatic surge over the border.
But we also want to talk about that CNN town hall.
CNN courted controversy and fierce debate this week after former President Donald Trump headlined its latest live primetime town hall, Trump's first of the 2024 election cycle.
Despite Moderator Kaitlan Collins' best efforts to fact-check Mr. Trump in real-time, he used questions from her and an audience of Republican New Hampshire voters to repeat many of his familiar false claims.
Some of their exchanges, like this one about the 2024 election results, revealed Trumps willingness to undermine the nation's election integrity.
KAITLAN COLLINS, Anchor, CNN: Will you commit to accepting the results of the election regardless of the outcome?
DONALD TRUMP: Do you want me to answer it again?
If I think it is an honest election, I would be honored to.
KAITLAN COLLINS: But no commitment on accepting the results regardless of the outcome?
DONALD TRUMP: If it is an honest election, correct, I will.
KAITLAN COLLINS: Okay.
So, not committing to accepting the 2024 election results.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: I think all of us here tonight can agree that no one says we should not cover the former president.
But media outlets, Dan are re-evaluating how to cover the former president.
What do you think our role, the press plays, in defending democracy?
DAN BALZ: Well, we play an important role.
We are protected by the First Amendment to hold government to account and to hold government officials to account, and part of that is protecting democratic institutions.
I think the challenge with President Trump, and I think that what happened on Wednesday night was unfortunate, was that it was as though we unlearned the lessons that we thought we had learned from 2016 and 2020 and his time in the White House.
Yes, he is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.
That means we have to cover him in some way or another.
But I thought that this event elevated him in ways that was unnecessary, particularly at this point in the cycle.
We are in May 2023.
And I thought CNN gave him more of a platform than they needed to do, and with a format that, in essence, favors the candidate rather than Kaitlan Collins, who did a very -- had a very tough job and worked at it throughout the 70 minutes of it.
My own view is on this that we need to be quite restrained in the way we approach Trump's candidacy, that we do not treat any event like a big event.
We have been successful on that for many of his rallies.
We don't cover the rallies in the way we did before.
But I think, again, what happened on Wednesday night as a reminder that he is a different kind of candidate than we have ever dealt with before and that his anti-democratic views are ones that we have to, A, be aware of, continue to bring to the forefront of people, and also not give him undue attention to talk about that.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The debate right now among some of our colleagues is -- I mean, they are saying we covered Trump but maybe we don't give him a live platform or carry his rallies live, as you just said, Dan.
Ali, what do you think of that?
ALI VITALI: The live piece of it, I think, is the part of the format that we are seeing the most criticism for.
Because you are right, all of us have been to Trump rallies, I've been going to them since 2015.
We all know what they are.
This was a Trump rally in a different format with someone prompting him along as topics changed.
I think also the fact that you had a crowd cheering and laughing along with him made it feel more like a rally format.
And I also think it's important, I couldn't stop thinking about this when I was watching.
The fact that one day before he got on that stage, a jury of his peers found him liable for sexual abuse and he went on that stage and he mocked that woman.
And it took me back to 2016 when more than a dozen women made credible sexual harassment or assault allegations against him and he went onstage and said everything from they are not my type, I would not do that, and made fun of them and mocked them.
And it really felt like time was a little bit of a flat circle in that moment, but people have this already baked into the Donald Trump cake.
And lawmakers did not necessarily feel a lot of pressure this week to distance themselves from him on it.
There were some who even said it made them want to vote for him even more.
I don't how that is logical at all.
But at the same time, I think this is already in voters' minds.
But we should not let that be as stunning as it actually is.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Zolan, the former president did make some policy news.
What stood out to you that night?
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS: A couple of things.
I mean, I think much of what he said up there was kind of something we have come to expect.
But I still think it was jarring and newsworthy that he could not say whether or not he wanted Russia or Ukraine to win that war.
I mean, you ask public officials in this town about that response today.
That's been something that they had been are reacting to, where currently there has already been some questions that have come from members of Congress about the future of U.S. aid when it comes to Ukraine.
We know that President Biden thus far has done a job of uniting the west in terms of against Russia as well as maintaining some support for that aid, but that was something that definitely stood out, as well as him dodging questions on abortion as well.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, you just made my transition for me, Zolan.
Because, Ron, you said that the former president's abortion comments were the most significant that night.
RON BROWNSTEIN: Yes.
I don't think it was entirely a dodge.
I think he gave us a very clear indication.
He said twice he was honored to have played the role -- played a critical role in ending Roe.
In fact, he kind of did the I alone can fix it when he said I was able to terminate Roe after 50 years of trying.
And he said that gave the pro-life side the leverage it needs to pass a national law that would satisfy pro-lifers in the end.
And I think that was about as clear an indication.
All that he didn't do was dot the I and cross the T and say how many weeks of a national abortion ban then that he would sign.
But I think he left no question that he would sign a national abortion ban.
And even beyond that, him, that sound bite of saying, I was able to terminate Roe, he took credit for ending a constitutional right that 60 percent of Americans wanted to keep in place.
And if you are in the suburbs of Milwaukee or Madison or Detroit or Las Vegas or Phoenix or Atlanta and he is the Republican nominee, you are going to see that sound bite, I think, endlessly in 2024.
And that wasn't the only -- I mean, he said he would pardon most of the January 6th rioters, that he said he would restore the policy of separating kids from their parents at the border.
The justification, quickly, of the Trump team was that this is an attempt to reach to the middle, to go beyond the kind of the conservative news bubble.
He said a lot of things that would be challenging in the suburbs they have to win back if he is the nominee.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Dan, final thought on Trump.
I mean, do you think the Democrats are making a mistake because they think he is the most beatable candidate?
DAN BALZ: Well, I think that there's a certain logic behind the idea that he is the likeliest of Republicans to be the nominee but I do also think that they believe he is more beatable perhaps than somebody else, although the others have got to prove their worth.
But I thought that coming out of that event, the most important thing was to remember that he is a different kind of person, a different kind of politician.
I agree with Ron that he made some statements that could be costly with different kinds of voters.
But the big question is what is his fitness for office a second time.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Certainly an abnormal candidate that we are all still learning how to cover.
But we have to leave it there for now.
So, thank you to my panel for joining us and for sharing your reporting.
And thanks to all of you for joining us as well.
Don't forget to watch PBS News Weekend on Saturday for a look at the devastating decline in Florida's citrus harvest that is also threatening a way of life.
I am Laura Barron-Lopez.
Good night from Washington.