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Biden to tout bipartisan debt ceiling deal in first Oval Office address


By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. presidents have generally reserved an address from the White House’s Oval Office for the most significant, and dramatic of events: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for example, or the Challenger space shuttle explosion.

On Friday, however, President Joe Biden plans to make his first Oval Office speech after more than two years as president about a crisis that was averted.

Biden, a Democrat, will speak at 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) about a topic that has dominated Washington and roiled investors in recent weeks, but had little impact to date on most American voters: the debt ceiling.

After nail-biting negotiations, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed a bill that lifts the government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, averting what would have been a first-ever default as early as June 5.

White House officials declined to provide details about Biden’s remarks, but he is expected to emphasize the importance of Democrats and Republicans ignoring their deep policy and cultural divides, after reaching the compromise deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“Our work is far from finished, but this agreement is a reminder of what’s possible when we act in the best interests of our country,” Biden said in a written statement earlier on Friday.

Former President Ronald Reagan spoke to the nation from the Oval Office after the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986; former President George W. Bush used the venue to address the country after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Former President Barack Obama made remarks from the Oval Office in the aftermath of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

Biden, who came into office in January 2021, has spoken before to the nation during ‘primetime’ hours, including his State of the Union addresses from the Capitol and a speech from the White House East Room during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Friday night address is his first from the Oval Office, a setting that highlights the power and authority of the presidency, as Biden seeks a second term against a growing field of Republican candidates.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)

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