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TL(PM) DIGEST: Debt ceiling debacle claims Biden's strategic Pacific trip
Plus the long and winding road for fighter jets to Ukraine, Cherelle Parker wins Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary, and a possible water pact in the West
1. Biden to cut short Pacific trip to deal with debt ceiling circus
What happened? President Biden will cut short his planned travel to the Pacific after this weekend’s G7 summit in Japan, forgoing a meeting of the so-called Quad—the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia—in Australia and cancelling what would have been the first-ever visit of a U.S. president to Papua New Guinea in order to deal with the debt ceiling circus at home.
Why does it matter? While Biden will still make the G7 summit, his failure to show up for the Quad meeting and ghosting the Papua New Guinea visit will only harm America’s position in the Pacific and make the United States look like an unreliable partner in a part of the world heavily courted by Beijing in recent years. It’s the first foreign policy casualty of debt ceiling madness—and America hasn’t even reneged on its financial obligations yet.
TLP’s take: There’s no positive way to spin this move—the debt ceiling debacle has already harmed American interests and our standing in the world. But the Biden administration faces a choice between bad and worse here, and defaulting on our national debt would definitely be the worse option for American foreign policy.
2. Fighter jets on their way to Ukraine?
What happened? The long and tortured process to transfer new fighter jets to Ukraine got underway as the British and Dutch governments agreed to spearhead an international coalition that would seek to provide Ukraine with surplus F-16 fighters, presumably from NATO nations now shedding their inventories in favor of new F-35 stealth fighters. This move comes on the heels of another British announcement that the UK would begin training Ukrainian pilots to prepare them to fly F-16s; French President Macron also signaled his openness to training Ukrainian pilots but ruled out sending Ukraine fighter aircraft.
Why does it matter? Ukraine’s air force has relied on old Soviet-era models, often jury-rigged with newer NATO weapons like HARM anti-radar missiles and Storm Shadow cruise missiles. Kyiv has received surplus MiGs in recent months from countries like Poland and Slovakia, but Ukraine will eventually need more and better fighters it it’s to win control over its own skies.
TLP’s take: As has been the case with just about every other weapon provided to Ukraine, initial refusals eventually gave way to agreement after lengthy and often public diplomatic wrangling. Credit to the British and Dutch governments for kickstarting this process—though it’s unlikely Ukraine will receive NATO-standard fighters in time to cover its summer counteroffensive.
3. Cherelle Parker wins contested Democratic mayoral primary in Philadelphia
What happened? Cherelle Parker, a veteran state representative for northwest Philadelphia, won the city’s Democratic primary yesterday with 33 percent of the vote, putting her on track to be the city’s first female mayor.
Why does it matter? National progressives made a big push for Helen Gym, but she fell well short in a crowded primary field. Reflecting the common-sense approach of most Philadelphia residents:
Parker pledged to “stop the sense of lawlessness that is plaguing our city” by putting hundreds more officers on the street to engage in community policing. Parker pushed for officers to use every legal tool, including stopping someone when they have “just cause and reasonable suspicion.”
She received support from members of the Philadelphia delegation in the House, as well as members of Congress. She was also backed by labor unions and a number of wards in the city.
TLP’s take: “Twitter is not real life” and “all politics is local” as the folk wisdom goes. Despite bravado by national activists, and serious misreading of close polling numbers by some analysts, Philadelphia’s Democratic voters likely made a historic pick for the city’s next mayor more in line with their mainstream values and priorities. Best of luck to Parker in her future election—and potentially as mayor of the fine City of Brotherly Love.
4. Three states in the West near historic deal to preserve water in the Colorado River
What happened? As reported by The Washington Post, California, Arizona, and Nevada are close to finalizing an important agreement to preserve water from the Colorado River in exchange for $1 billion in federal funds.
Why does it matter? The Colorado River runs from the Rocky Mountains to Mexico, providing critical water resources to cities and farms throughout the West. But as the region has gotten hotter and drier, the nation’s largest reservoirs in the Colorado River basin have been in a crisis state for a while, although recent big snows and possible state cooperation offer a short-term path to stability:
Abundant snow cloaked the Rocky Mountains over the winter and atmospheric rivers doused California’s drought. Water levels in the big reservoirs have started to rise. Colorado River experts have grown increasingly confident that the most draconian cuts in fact wouldn’t be needed, at least this year. And the $4 billion in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act pledged to this problem meant that those who voluntarily gave up their rights to water would be well-compensated for it.
Those conditions helped the Lower Basin negotiators come up with a plan to volunteer about 3 million acre-feet of cuts total until 2026, when a major renegotiation of the rules of the river is scheduled to begin.
TLP’s take: As climate change forces states and the federal government to grapple with complicated resource issues, the possibility of a regional pact on water in the Colorado River—with federal government assistance—is promising. In a likely future with diminished water resources throughout the West, and other natural challenges that cross state borders, regional and national cooperation will be vital to ensure the well-being of citizens and to maintain the economies of those communities that rely on abundant water and land for their livelihoods.