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Will President Biden really negotiate with Republicans over paying the nation's bills?


The president meets today with congressional leaders, and that includes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. House Republicans have yet to agree to extend federal borrowing authority. Biden has said he won't negotiate over paying the bills that Congress has passed in the first place. But the analyst Julian Zelizer of Princeton told us the other day that his options are limited.

JULIAN ZELIZER: The problem is if Republicans are willing to go through with this, that means there's a potential for a default unless the president takes extraordinary measures, like using the 14th Amendment to pay for the government's bills. If he's not willing to do that, he doesn't have as much leverage, I think, as some Democrats hope.

INSKEEP: NPR's Claudia Grisales is covering the story. Claudia, good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Who all's attending this meeting?

GRISALES: So Biden and McCarthy will join Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries for this 4 p.m. Eastern meeting. And it's going to be the first conversation for this group - the first joint conversation - since this fight over the debt limit got underway. It's also the first since House Republicans passed a bill that they dubbed the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt ceiling by 1.5 trillion or until March of next year, whichever happens first. And that legislation includes significant cuts in government spending over the next several years. It claws back Biden initiatives and unspent funds from bills such as the pandemic relief aid.

And to illustrate how far apart these two sides are, Democrats have dubbed this bill the Default on America Act, calling it a ransom note to the American people. So going into this, we are not expecting a major breakthrough today on a permanent deal.

INSKEEP: OK. Default on America - DOA. Kind of hard to miss the joke there.

GRISALES: Exactly. Exactly.

INSKEEP: But they're in the room. They're facing each other. They're talking. What challenges would they face in reaching some accommodation?

GRISALES: So House Republicans, in their debt limit bill, that marked one of their biggest tests yet for McCarthy as speaker. It cleared the chamber by a vote of 217-215 - so a reminder of the tight margins there, even on a partisan wish list bill. So their opening bid here in these talks marks leverage for Republicans to start these conversations. They only control one chamber in this divided government scenario. And while Biden has said the debt limit is not negotiable, he will have to see what spending cuts or other concessions his party may have an appetite for. But both face major political consequences here, with Biden and McCarthy in each of their roles for the first time and Biden running for reelection for the presidency.

INSKEEP: Yeah, Biden running for reelection and McCarthy trying to keep his job with a fractious caucus that's just barely behind him.


INSKEEP: How does this compare to the last time this became a crisis, which was 2011?

GRISALES: Two figures from today's meeting - Biden is then vice president and McConnell in the Senate at the time - helped broker a deal as they worked with other negotiators. But they came within days of the breach, and the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time. But this time, it's a much more partisan scenario. McConnell and other key Senate Republicans say they're behind McCarthy on this and say Biden needs to negotiate. And McCarthy is a much less familiar opponent for negotiations for Biden on this.

INSKEEP: Yeah, I guess we should note Biden, of course, was vice president in 2011, but effectively president...


INSKEEP: ...Of the Senate and had been a long-time senator.


INSKEEP: So - one of them. Claudia, thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thank you much.

INSKEEP: NPR's Claudia Grisales.


INSKEEP: All right. Russia held its Victory Day celebrations. Soldiers in dress uniforms marched with arms swinging across Red Square outside the Kremlin.


MARTÍNEZ: This is an annual event marking the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, but it's hard to watch without thinking about the other war. That's Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Overnight, Russia conducted airstrikes on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other targets. Ukrainian officials say they intercepted nearly all the Russian missiles.

INSKEEP: NPR's Russia correspondent Charles Maynes has been watching the ceremonies in Moscow. Hey there, Charles.


INSKEEP: So what stood out for you as far as what was there or what was not there on Red Square today?

MAYNES: Well, you know, the ceremony on Red Square intentionally echoes the grand Soviet military parades of the past, yet this year's event seems somewhat muted, I would say. There were just a few international leaders in attendance. There were fewer troops, fewer tanks and missiles on display than, say, last year, perhaps because of the questionable optics of using the best of what Russia has in a televised parade while actual combat is going on in Ukraine. Now, as he did last year, Putin drew direct parallels between the Soviet victory in 1945 and Russian forces battling what he called a cult of Nazism today. In fact, there were soldiers and military families from the current military campaign in the audience, and Putin addressed them directly.



MAYNES: So here, Putin tells them there's nothing more important than their combat duty today and that they're fighting for the future of the Russian people in the country. Now, it's worth pointing out that even before the war in Ukraine, some Russians were highly uncomfortable with the way Putin has politicized this holiday in general. But amid the fighting in Ukraine, there's real concern that these comparisons with World War II undermine legitimate pride in the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany - a war effort, I remind you, that took more than 20 million lives.

INSKEEP: Yeah. What was security like, given that Russia says there were drone attacks on the Kremlin the other day?

MAYNES: Well, it's never loose, but security was tighter this year, in part because of these drone incidents over which there's still a lot of questions as to what actually happened. We just don't know. What we do know is there were already concerns over safety amid the holiday. Nationally, authorities scrapped ceremonies in which Russians honor family members who died in World War II by marching with pictures of them through the streets. Now, formally, that decision was made due to security concerns. But again, you know, you have to wonder about the optics of Russians carrying pictures of dead soldiers, particularly as there's this intense debate over the real numbers of casualties in Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that. Do you get any sense of how Russian leaders, insiders, feel about the way the war is going in Ukraine?

MAYNES: Well, this holiday, it comes as we see top Russian military figures, not for the first time, at each other's throats. In particular, the head of the main Russian mercenary force, the Wagner group, has, in recent days, publicly laid into the defense minister over a lack of ammunition and other issues. And again, it just plays this contrast between past and present. World War II is this story of incredible sacrifice that affected nearly every family in the Soviet Union, including, I might add, Ukrainian families, and it's a story we know ended in victory. The war in Ukraine, however, is a story of a military campaign where the military has so far struggled to achieve its goals. And it's a story whose conclusion still seems very much in doubt.

INSKEEP: NPR's Charles Maynes is in Moscow. And, Charles, I'm glad you're there. Thanks very much for your insights.

MAYNES: Thank you.


INSKEEP: For the first time, the American Psychological Association is issuing recommendations for teenagers' use of social media.

MARTÍNEZ: And it comes at a time when teens and tweens are facing high rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness. There's evidence that social media can make all of those problems worse.

INSKEEP: NPR mental health correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff is here. Good morning.


INSKEEP: OK, what do they recommend?

DOUCLEFF: So the recommendations focus really on two main points. First is the content on kids' feeds. The APA says parents need to make sure to minimize dangerous content, including that related to suicide, eating disorders and racism. Studies suggest that exposure to these harmful behaviors can actually promote them in some children.

INSKEEP: And I would imagine that some children see that kind of thing often.

DOUCLEFF: You know, it has become more common than maybe many parents realize. A recent survey of teenage girls using social media found that more than a third come across content related to suicide or eating disorders at least once a month. Dr. Arthur C. Evans is a CEO for the APA. He says parents also need to be aware of cyber hate and cyber bullying.

ARTHUR C EVANS: Online cyber bullying can be more harmful than offline bullying. So there's an impact that is greater for online bullying.

DOUCLEFF: So the APA guidelines say that for kids under age 15 or so, parents should really be with the child when they use social media.

EVANS: As children become older, you're going to be spending more time coaching, talking, helping to educate your child.

DOUCLEFF: The APA also notes that this dangerous material really shouldn't be in the child's feed in the first place, and that that responsibility sits largely with the tech companies making these platforms.

INSKEEP: And yet the recommendations put a lot of burden on the parents. The idea of being there all the time your kid is near a screen seems problematic. Is that the right word?

DOUCLEFF: Absolutely. And monitoring the feeds - right? - is hard.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Yeah.

DOUCLEFF: It's a criticism I'm hearing from a lot of clinicians. One of them is Bob Keane. He's a psychologist at Walden Behavioral Care, which helps teens with eating disorders. He says it's unrealistic to expect parents to be able to monitor kids' accounts like this, especially when kids know more about social media than parents do.

BOB KEANE: We're in a crisis here, and a family's ability or parent's ability to manage this right now is very limited. And that's, I think, what families really need help with. What do we do? You can't monitor kids' utilization on this as a parent. It's really - they get away from you.

DOUCLEFF: So many psychologists tell me this guidance really can't be implemented without cooperation from tech companies or some federal regulation.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, until that happens, is there anything else parents can do?

DOUCLEFF: Yeah. You know, the other big recommendation is to get kids training before they start social media or while they're on it. They need to be taught about this dangerous content and the fact that a lot on social media is a highlight reel of people's lives, right? It's not reality. Studies show that when teens compare themselves to these images, it can cause depression. And remember, these platforms can be addictive. The algorithms try to keep kids on these platforms as long as possible. So one tangible piece of advice I'm hearing, Steve, is for families to have periods in the day where nobody in the family is using social media at all.

INSKEEP: Oh, I'm sorry, Michaeleen. I was just checking Instagram. What were you saying?

DOUCLEFF: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: I'm just kidding.

DOUCLEFF: No social media for an hour - everyone.

INSKEEP: Got you. There we go. Great. Great. I'll go for that. Michaeleen, thanks so much.

DOUCLEFF: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR mental health correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff. And seriously, if you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.