This week in politics: U.S. averts default; DeSantis jabs Trump, reporters.


America tiptoed toward a dangerous cliff, but Washington's leaders avoided a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt after months of stalled talks and last-minute agreements.

President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy's deal didn't sit well with a lot of lawmakers in either party, but after some arm twisting, pleas and promises Congress completed a legislative sprint that cuts a projected $1.5 trillion in federal spending and allows the U.S. to pay all of its bills.

No one got everything they wanted in the deal, but "the American people got what they needed," Biden said in a national address Friday.

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US President Joe Biden addresses the nation on averting default and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, June 2, 2023. (Photo by JIM WATSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: AFP_33GV2CB.jpg

The president is expected to pivot some his attention back to the campaign, where his would-be Republican rivals are jockeying to be the chief challenger to take down former President Donald Trump ahead of next year's primaries.

At least two new contenders—former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—are about to join the GOP race.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is still considered the top Trump alternative among Republicans, may have stumbled when he launched his bid last week, but he appears ready to joust with Trump—and reporters—on the trail.

"What are you talking about? ... Are you blind? Are you blind?" DeSantis barked at an Associated Press reporter, when asked why he didn't take questions from the crowd at a New Hampshire event.

And abortion remains at the forefront after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two state laws this week aimed at further restricting reproductive rights.

U.S. averts disastrous default

Senators sprinted to approve the Biden-McCarthy deal late Thursday evening after a series of failed amendments, capping off a week that underscored Washington's dysfunction.

Outspoken liberals said the plan was cruel for forcing work requirements on food stamp recipients, and vocal conservatives said it didn't include enough defense funding or go far enough to lower the nation's debt.

But by a 63-36 vote, the Senate sent the measure to Biden's desk.

"We prevented a catastrophic default that would have decimated our economy and inflected immense pain on families," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, said in a tweet Thursday.

"We preserved the lion’s share of the historic investments we made. We took off the table the worst parts of the MAGA Republican plan that would have hurt families."

Congress repeals Biden's student loan relief

Samantha Carhuaricra, a student at Rutgers University, is pictured standing in front of the Supreme Court in February. Protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court ahead of the oral arguments in two cases that challenge President Joe Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan.

Eclipsed by the debt debate was Congress officially rebuking Biden's student loan debt forgiveness plan.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 51-46 this week to repeal an effort to forgive up to $20,000 for tens of millions of borrowers. It came days after the House, which is run by Republicans, moved to kill the idea.

Even though Biden's party runs the upper chamber the measure go through thanks to Democrats Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Jon Tester, of Montana, who voted in favor of the resolution alongside Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

All three are facing tough reelection bids in 2024, by the way.

But the White House has said Biden plans to use the mighty veto pen to block the bill, and it doesn't appear Congress has the votes to override.

DeSantis wars with Trump, reporters on campaign trail

LACONIA, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JUNE 1: Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during his "Our Great American Comeback" Tour stop on June 1, 2023 in Laconia, New Hampshire. DeSantis is in New Hampshire as part of his newly launched presidential campaign and after spending two days making stops around Iowa, which leads off the GOP presidential primary contest next year. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775985293 ORIG FILE ID: 1258352246

The Trump-DeSantis clashes are happening at a neck-breaking pace now that the Florida governor is officially a candidate.

DeSantis started with a subtle diss—no mention by name—during a stop in Iowa this week. He said U.S. leadership “is not about entertainment. It's not about building a brand."

But eventually the gloves came off with DeSantis laying into Trump about COVID-19 policies, the beef with Disney, and winning elections.

“I am going to counterpunch,” DeSantis said. “I’m going to fight back on it.”

Trump, as you might expect, has responded.

*** BESTPIX *** GRIMES, IOWA - JUNE 01: Former President Donald Trump greets supporters at a Team Trump volunteer leadership training event held at the Grimes Community Complex on June 01, 2023 in Grimes, Iowa. Trump delivered an unscripted speech to the crowd at the event before taking several questions from his supporters.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775985711 ORIG FILE ID: 1495210661

For instance, when the Florida governor argued Trump will be limited in how much he can do given that he has already served one term, the former president called him "DeSanctus," and boasted how it will take just six months to undo the Biden administration's policies.

"He says eight years is important. He said he's going to need eight years. I don't need eight years," Trump said. "If he needs eight years to turn it around, you don't want him as your president."

Pence, Christie are joining the 2024 fray

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Federalist Society Executive Branch Review conference, Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Washington.

Add two more heavy-hitter names to the 2024 Republican presidential marathon.

Former Vice President Mike Pence will publicly launch his presidential campaign June 7 with a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. And a day before that Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, will also enter the contest with a town hall at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.

These two bring very different styles and perspectives to the primary.

Christie, known for his confrontational style, has mostly cast himself as the only Republican willing and able to take down Trump. He and his supporters have been sounding the alarm for months that they believe Trump can't defeat Biden in 2024.

In a May 11 tweet, Christie blasted the former president on immigration, saying he failed on his promise to "build a big beautiful wall on the border" and that Mexico would reimburse the U.S. for the cost.

"Fact: We have not gotten one peso yet," Christie said. "He failed us on immigration."

Pence, who served as Trump’s second-in-command, isn’t nearly as aggressive in attacking his former boss and has tried to fly above the contentious. But he has carved out differences with Trump in regards to U.S. aid to Ukraine; making changes to changes to Social Security and Medicare; and elected officials being more respectful.

"I believe that democracy depends on heavy doses of civility and I think we ought to be looking for leadership that will restore a threshold of civility in public life, that will bring respect back to the dialogue," he said.

Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down two anti-abortion laws

Dani Thayer, left, and Marina Lanae, right, both of Tulsa, Oklahoma, hold pro-choice signs at the state Capitol, Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Oklahoma City.

Abortion laws remain a patchwork in the country post-Roe.

This week the Oklahoma Supreme Court toppled a pair of anti-abortion laws that impose a six-week ban and nearly prohibit the procedure altogether.

What’s important about the 6-3 decision is that the court ruled the two laws violate the Oklahoma Constitution because they block the "inherent right” a woman has to save her own life.

But before reproductive rights activists celebrate, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond reiterated how the ruling does not overturn The Sooner State’s 1910 law prohibiting abortion.

That pre-Roe ban makes abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, except when necessary to preserve a woman’s life.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Week in politics: U.S. averts default; DeSantis jabs Trump, reporters.