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Week in politics: Debt ceiling updates; DeSantis's anticipated announcement

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Negotiations on raising the nation's debt ceiling were off, then back on, then ended late last night with no resolution. And concerns loom over the possibility that the U.S. will default on its debt. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us.

Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: These debt ceiling talks are flickering off and on like a like a bad light switch. But can they drag on for much longer without becoming a real crisis, too?

ELVING: They cannot. This is the moment when the stuff gets real, Scott. The negotiators really wanted to have a deal this weekend just to give the House time to assess it and argue and to put together the votes to pass it and do it next week in time to get it over to the Senate in a shape the Senate can accept without a long Senate debate and do it all in time for Biden to sign it in the next 10 days to head off default, which apparently is coming right around the 1 of June, when the cash is gone. So it's crunch time, and the players still seem to be posturing.

SIMON: And, of course, all this goes on while President Biden is in Hiroshima for the G-7 meeting. President Zelenskyy joined this morning in person.

ELVING: Yes. Nothing like face to face when you are asking for the world. Zelenskyy has already had a sidebar with India's Prime Minister Modi today, talk about what India might do for peace. He's there to find more support in a military sense but also to look for peace solutions. He's asking the world's largest economies to give him even more help in his war effort against Putin's invasion. Biden approving today, apparently, having Ukraine's pilots train on F-16 fighter jets. Now, that's an American product, but the jets themselves would not be provided by the U.S. but rather by some of our allies. Yet the training - just the training - constitutes an escalation in the U.S. commitment.

SIMON: Of course, Florida Governor DeSantis reportedly on the verge of finally announcing his candidacy for president. At the moment, he's in a public row with Disney, who says they they will not build a new facility and move more personnel to Florida. Governor DeSantis is popular in Florida. Will the issues he's used to become popular there translate nationally?

ELVING: You know, that's really the audience that he's talking to right now. He's clearly moving into the final hours before he announces for president. The war on Disney may be making some conservative activists in early voting states happier with DeSantis because they see Disney as part of the Hollywood liberal consensus. And besieging the Magic Kingdom helps DeSantis keep those loyalists loyal. But it also suggests, perhaps, to a national audience a lack of experience with bargaining and conflict resolution. And DeSantis seems to lack the gene for compromise, if you know what I mean. That may be a virtue on the highly partisan primary front, but it's not a big plus in a November general election.

SIMON: What about the role of Florida Senator Rick Scott? Kind of inserted himself into the DeSantis-Disney brawl, calling for contemplation. Cool heads prevail. Is this to help his reelection campaign?

ELVING: He is up for reelection. He would like to be helpful at the moment to both sides. It's to his advantage to have this peaceably resolved in favor of business as usual in Florida. And right now in Florida, you have DeSantis running for president. You've also got another Republican senator who recently ran for president, Marco Rubio. And he may want to run again. And then, of course, Republican Senator Scott, who ran and lost for party leader in the Senate, might clearly like to be president himself someday.

SIMON: We have to ask about the health of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Seems to be fresh concern about her ability to carry out her elected duties.

ELVING: We were told just this week that her recent case of shingles triggered also a bout with encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain, and also Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can cause paralysis of the facial muscles. People are talking about how she seems confused. She - perhaps she's not aware of how long she's been gone. Truth is, we really don't know what command she has of her faculties at this point. She is the oldest member of the current Senate, about to turn 90 next month. Neither the Senate nor, for that matter, the Supreme Court has adequate or transparent rules in place to handle cases such as the ones they've been facing lately - whether or not to ask a member to leave or to expel a member.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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