The U.S. debt limit nears
For months, the U.S. has thundered toward a debt limit crisis. Democrats refused to negotiate, and Republicans insisted on a deal stocked with right-wing policy priorities. More recently, President Biden has agreed to have his staff meet directly with Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s aides, and the chances of getting a deal to increase the borrowing limit now seem higher.
Republicans have now demanded that any deal must include stricter work requirements for social safety net programs. Biden has hinted that he might be willing to accept such a bargain, drawing a backlash from liberal congressional Democrats, who have begun openly fretting that the president might agree to a deal they cannot accept.
The pushback reflects the political crosscurrents at play in the talks between Biden and McCarthy, both of whom have to contend with slim majorities in Congress and uncompromising political bases that will find any agreement hard to swallow. But the U.S. is essentially living paycheck to paycheck, and the unknown date on which the cash runs out is looming.
Consequences: If Congress does not increase the debt ceiling — the limit on money that the U.S. can borrow — the government may run out of money as early as June 1. The government would no longer be able to pay its bills, potentially defaulting on its debts. That situation could send the financial markets, and the economy, into chaos. “We are sailing into uncharted waters,” one expert said.
Balancing the U.S. budget for Ukraine aid
The Pentagon has significantly reduced its estimate of the value of weapons it has sent to Ukraine, freeing up at least $3 billion to supply Ukrainian troops with arms. The calculation comes as the Biden administration has faced intensifying pressure to explain how it intended to continue supporting Ukraine without asking Congress to replenish its budget.
Pentagon and State Department officials yesterday told congressional staff members that they had discovered an accounting issue that could make more resources available before Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive this summer. They had realized their mistake almost two months ago, a senior White House official said.
Instead of placating Congress’s concerns, the revelation was met with frustration and anger, as some lawmakers criticized the Biden administration for what they said was an extremely troublesome error. They called on the administration to “make up for this precious lost time” by sending long-range missiles and cluster munitions to Ukraine, a move that the administration has resisted doing.
Go deeper: Administration officials said their mistake was one of improper valuation, explaining that they had been calculating the price of each item based on how much replacing it with new equipment would cost, instead of on sale value, which is lower.
In other news from the war:
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is scheduled to appear in person at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, this weekend.
Russia attacked Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, for the ninth time this month. One person was killed by missile strikes in Odesa, a southern city.
An explosion derailed a freight train in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea, the latest in a series of blasts to hit Russian infrastructure.
The end of al-Assad’s isolation?
In the months since a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has made a remarkable comeback, going from years of near-total global isolation to a welcome back into the Arab fold with virtually no strings attached. He is today expected to attend an annual summit of Arab leaders for the first time in 13 years.
Assad was shunned for brutally suppressing in 2011 his country’s Arab Spring uprising, which morphed into a grinding civil war. His government stands accused of widespread torture, the use of chemical weapons against its own people and forced population transfers in a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
The Biden administration has made it clear that the U.S. has no plans to re-establish relations with Syria, and Human Rights Watch has urged the Arab countries normalizing ties with the Assad government to at least push for accountability and reforms. Syria’s government is still subject to Western sanctions, but al-Assad does not appear to have paid a heavy price for readmission into the Arab League of leaders.
Repercussions: Analysts said the Syrian war helped set the stage for what the world is now witnessing in Ukraine. The survival of al-Assad’s regime came in large part because of extensive military support from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. But Russia was never held accountable for the attacks it carried out in Syria, including the targeting of hospitals.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Thousands of Israelis, many from ultranationalist groups, marched through Jerusalem to celebrate their country’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, in a contentious annual event that stirs tensions with Palestinians.
Singapore hanged a man for trafficking 3.4 pounds, or about 1.6 kilograms, of marijuana, the country’s second drug-related execution in three weeks.
The chief of Ukraine’s Supreme Court was formally arrested, as prosecutors indicated that a high-level corruption case was expanding to include a wider circle of judges.
Private water and sewage companies in England announced a plan totaling 10 billion pounds, or about $12.4 billion, to modernize the country’s sewers.
Was a fearsome Viking fortress on Poland’s Baltic coast a literary fantasy or a historical reality?
Other Big Stories
As U.S.-led peace negotiations flounder, experts warn that Sudan risks spiraling into a state of anarchy.
Deutsche Bank will pay $75 million to sexual abuse victims of Jeffrey Epstein who sued the bank for enabling his trafficking of young women.
Days after Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Myanmar, aid groups are still waiting for the military regime’s approval to deliver supplies to survivors.
In a win for social media platforms, the Supreme Court left untouched a technology law known as Section 230, which shields companies from liability over users’ posts.
The Week in Culture
The restoration of a work by Pablo Picasso revealed a hidden dog.
Salman Rushdie made a surprise appearance at PEN America’s annual gala last night, in his first public appearance since he was stabbed last August.
An unfortunate kickoff for Johnny Depp’s return, a record number of female directors and Steve McQueen’s new documentary: Read our critic’s notes from Cannes.
A world of merchandise is growing around courtroom spectacles like Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski trial.
Paul Simon has released a new album, “Seven Psalms,” at 81.
A Morning Read
Call it a royal paradox: Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, plead for privacy even as they seek publicity, with a Netflix documentary, a tell-all memoir and public appearances that inevitably draw cameras.
At the same time, their hounding by paparazzi can veer into frightening territory — where even the presence of the police does not serve as a deterrent.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
How Manchester City earned its biggest win yet: City produced its best performance in the Pep Guardiola era to beat Real Madrid and stay on track for the treble.
Premier League’s third-highest scorer is suspended for betting: Soccer and gambling go hand in hand, so people should not act shocked at Ivan Toney’s mistakes.
From The Times: Rafael Nadal will not compete in the French Open because of an injury. He said that next season “probably is going to be my last year in the professional tour.”
ARTS AND IDEAS
Did Andy Warhol break copyright law?
The U.S. Supreme Court certainly thinks so. In a 7-to-2 ruling, the justices said the artist was not entitled to appropriate a photograph of Prince by Lynn Goldsmith into a portrait series.
Goldsmith’s “original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, even against famous artists,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority. The photographer received almost no money or mainstream credit for the image.
In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the decision “will stifle creativity of every sort” and “make our world poorer.” The art world largely agrees: Many feared this outcome, arguing that artists borrow from each other all the time. (They also note that Andy Warhol, who died in 1987, altered the photograph in various ways.)
“There’s a lot that judges can do with the stroke of a pen, but rewriting art history isn’t one of them,” Blake Gopnik, a Warhol biographer and critic, wrote in The Times. “They’re stuck with appropriation as one of the great artistic innovations of the modern era. Their job is to make sure the law recognizes that.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Serve this stir-fry over rice or noodles for an easy, better-than-takeout feast.
Spend 36 hours in Buenos Aires.
Gen Z’s Favorite Compliment
A word that has come to embody everything pure and true.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Added logs to, as a fire (three letters).
And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a fabulous weekend. — Natasha
P.S. The word “nontherapy” appeared for the first time in The Times this week, in this article about whether therapy really works.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the #MeToo movement.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].
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