May 30, 2023 - Podcasts

Parties come together to avert U.S. debt crisis

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a debt ceiling deal over the weekend. Now, it's up to Congress to vote for the bill and avoid a catastrophic default.

  • Plus, a backlog of migrants builds on the Mexican side of the Southern border.
  • And, Turkish President Erdoğan secures five more years in power.

Guests: Axios' Hans Nichols and Stef Kight.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Margaret Talev, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Tuesday, May 30th. I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. Today: a backlog of migrants builds on the Mexican side of the Southern border. Plus, Turkish President Erdoğan secures five more years in power. But first, the parties come together to avert a U.S. debt crisis – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

A debt ceiling crisis averted

MARGARET: President Biden and House speaker Kevin McCarthy finally reached a deal over the weekend on the debt ceiling. And they've created a bill that would raise it by $4 trillion. But now they'll have to convince the rest of Congress to vote for it to avoid a catastrophic default by the U.S. government. So here to help us dig deeper is Axios political reporter Hans Nichols. Hi Hans.

HANS NICHOLS: Good morning. It'll be nice to do this story sober, cause I think most reporters, when they were reporting it, like, Saturday night when it all broke, we may have been at least a couple hotdogs into the evening.

MARGARET: Hans, what concessions did President Biden and Speaker McCarthy actually have to make to reach this deal?

HANS: I think the big one Biden made was he entered a negotiation, and he agreed to spend less than he did in 2023. And that's the big picture. That's what Republicans will take home to their base and say, here's what we want. We have finally slowed down spending. Now there's some other stuff around the margins: work requirements for certain social welfare programs. There's a little bit on permitting reform. There's less money for the Internal Revenue Service, and there's a little bit on unspent covid funds, which is, again, mostly symbolic for the Republicans, but you add it all up and you get a couple, couple billion, more than a couple billion in that case.

MARGARET: What concessions did Kevin McCarthy make?

HANS: Kevin McCarthy agreed to raise the debt ceiling. And he didn't agree to, sort of, stall the entire economy and potentially have the U.S. government's ability to pay its bills cast into doubt. Is this what a lot of Democrats are gonna be asking. It's like, what did we actually get? And Biden is gonna have, not necessarily a challenging time, but he's gonna have to say, here's why this is a good deal, and here's why you should support him.

MARGARET: So let's talk basic politics. What is the reaction so far from Congress on the deal that the leaders have?

HANS: The outer portions of the party – I didn't wanna say extremes there – are crying foul. There have been some House Freedom Caucus members, some, you know, right wing conservatives that say they're opposed to it. Some progressives have also indicated that they don't like the deal that was cut. The big question we have is what are their numbers. And the numbers will actually tell us something. Because if you end up having, you know, a hundred house Republicans that end up voting against this, well, maybe that's an indication that Republicans don't think it's such a good deal or could be an indication that they just wouldn't take yes for an answer, and same with progressives. So, it's almost like an interpersonal level if you're coaching a kid's team, or heaven forbid you're having a dispute with your spouse, sometimes you can make a big issue out of a small thing and other times you can kind of just agree to look away. We’ll see to what extent the sort of conservatives in the house and the progressives in the house agree to look away.

MARGARET: So if enough people agree to look away, is it more important for what it does or more important for what it averts?

HANS: Oh, absolutely what it averts, right? There'll be a lot of this that we'll forget. What we'll remember is that two parties came together, and they found a deal to avert a crisis. There could be some hiccup in the next 24 or 48 hours, but I think this shows that you can have divided government, that even Kevin McCarthy, with a very thin majority can command his troops to stay together. And the White House can drive a hard bargain and ultimately come to an agreement with, you know, the other party that they disagree on so much. These are deep fundamental disagreements, and yet the system, the system works. So, accuse me of being a sad, bipartisan incrementalist, but I think that's what we got here. Institutions held and we didn't default, which is what really matters.

MARGARET: Hans Nichols covers national politics at Axios. Thanks, Hans.

HANS: Thank you for having me.

Turkish President Erdoğan wins re-election

MARGARET: One other headline we’ve been following…

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won re-election in this weekend’s run-off. After two decades in power – he will serve another five year term.

Erdogan faced headwinds in this election, with Turkey’s high inflation and what many thought was a slow response after Turkey’s earthquake earlier this year. But, his popularity with conservatives and religious Turks helped him hold onto power.

Now for the Biden administration, his win is both an asset and a challenge. Erdoğan has been a helpful mediator on some issues between Ukraine and Russia, but has undercut democratic values at a time western leaders are worried about the global rise of authoritarianism. And he blocked Sweden from joining NATO. Now, U.S. officials hope Erdogan’s win at home gives him a window to change course and allow Sweden’s membership in the coming weeks.

In a moment: on the Mexican side of the Southern border, the migrant crisis the U.S. doesn’t see.

The Mexican border crisis the U.S. doesn't see

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo. A backlog of tens of thousands of migrants is threatening a humanitarian crisis on the Mexican side of the U.S. - Mexico border. That's what Axios’ Stef Kight is reporting. The chaos that many feared would appear on the U.S. side after the recent end of Title 42 has not materialized, at least not yet.

And the Biden administration says that its policies to curb illegal migrant crossings are working. Stef's here with more. Stef, are things really as quiet as they seem on the U.S. side, why aren't more people trying to cross illegally into the U.S.?

STEF KIGHT: We certainly have seen a decline in the number of people attempting to cross the U.S. - Mexico border illegally after the end of the pandemic policy Title 42. In the days leading up to the end of Title 42, we were seeing more than ten thousand people trying to cross every single day, which was a record daily number. In the days right after that policy ended and the new stricter policies from the Biden administration took place, that number declined to less than four thousand people attempting to cross every single day. One reason that people may not be crossing now is just confusion over these new policies. Lots of experts will say migrants are kind of waiting and watching to see whether they should attempt to cross illegally or try to take advantage of some of the legal pathways the administration has provided.

MARGARET: So what's happening on the Mexican side right now?

STEF: So over the past several months, we've seen tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers making their way towards the U.S. - Mexico border, and many have been waiting in Mexico for an opportunity to cross illegally or get an appointment through a new app that the administration has been using or to find another legal means of entering the U.S. So there's been a backlog forming in many Mexican cities along the border, and those numbers haven't declined. Just because people aren't crossing into the US doesn't mean that they've turned around or gone back home. We're still seeing many shelters throughout Mexico beyond their capacity as people are trying to figure out their next steps.

We're looking at more than 25,000 migrants in these shelters as of May 19th, and that does not include the hundreds more who are in these camps that are popping up throughout Mexico, and you know, lots of these people aren't from Mexico. People are increasingly traveling from further away countries. You know, people even from India, people from China, people from Venezuela And that's not something Mexico is necessarily prepared to handle either.

MARGARET: The Biden administration has certainly sought to distinguish itself from the Trump administration in terms of humanitarian approach, in terms of their treatment of children and families at the border. How different are you seeing the Biden administration's policies actually looking in practice, though?

STEF: President Biden has certainly shifted in the way he's approached the border and immigration policy, most notably with a rule, an asylum rule that he rolled out after the end of Title 42. And this rule essentially would automatically bar people from asylum if they cross the border illegally and don't first apply for asylum or protections in another country that they traveled through.

And this very much mirrors a Trump era policy that they called the Third Country asylum rule, which similarly required people to apply for protections in a country they traveled through before they got to the U.S. The Biden administration tries to differentiate their policy by pointing to some of the legal pathways they enabled, such as parole processes if they have sponsors in the US, and the app, but elements of their policy do closely mirror policies that were very controversial under the Trump administration.

MARGARET: Stef Kight is a politics reporter for Axios who reports on immigration. Thanks, Stef.

STEF: Thanks, Margaret.

"The Little Mermaid" makes a splash at the box office

MARGARET: One last thing before we go: the new Disney live action remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’ made a splash in the box office over the holiday weekend, bringing in $117.5 million-dollars, and that’s just domestically.

That makes it the 5th highest opening for Memorial Day weekend in history, according to Comscore (number one is last year’s Top Gun: Maverick, if you’re curious), and if you include international ticket sales, “The Little Mermaid” brought in about $186 million-dollars.

The casting of Halle Bailey – a Black actress – as Ariel sparked backlash since its 2019 announcement, but the remake of the 1989 film so far has a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Margaret Talev, Axios Senior Contributor and Director of Syracuse University’s Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship. Thanks so much for listening, stay safe, and Niala will be back with you tomorrow morning.

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