WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden postponed a trip to Colorado on Monday to stay in Washington and focus on the growing conflict in the Middle East, setting aside an opportunity to pitch his economic accomplishments as he runs for reelection.
The White House said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser; Avril Haines, the national intelligence director; and Bill Burns, head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Chief of Staff Jeff Zients also attended.
Biden planned to visit Rep. Lauren Boebert’s district, where he was to tour CS Wind, the world’s largest facility for wind tower manufacturing. But the White House said just a few hours before Biden was set to take off for the trip that it would be rescheduled as Israel prepares a ground invasion of Gaza and humanitarian concerns worsen in the territory.
The Democratic president is weighing a decision to visit Israel in what would be a striking symbol of support following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
More than 2,300 Palestinians have died in the ensuing Israeli bombardment of Gaza. At least 30 U.S. citizens have also died, and 13 remain missing, the State Department says.
It’s rare for presidential travel, which is meticulously planned for security and logistical purposes, to be called off at the last minute. Biden’s decision reflects the competing pressure that he faces as he tries to manage bloody conflicts in Ukraine, where the Russian invasion is in its second year, and now the Middle East, always one of the world’s most combustible regions.
There are concerns that a second front could open in Israel’s north, which neighbors the Hezbollah-controlled territory in Lebanon’s south. There have already been reports of sporadic fighting along the border.
Iran backs both Hamas and Hezbollah. Two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups have been dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean in an effort to deter a widening war.
Domestic and foreign policy priorities have collided for Biden before.
He was scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea and Australia after attending the Group of Seven meeting in Japan earlier this year, but the two stops were scrubbed because of the standoff over the debt ceiling back in Washington. Rather than deepening ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Biden jetted home to hash out a deal with Republicans to prevent a first-ever default.
The change in Monday’s schedule costs Biden a chance to turn Boebert into a political foil as he showcases the Inflation Reduction Act, his signature domestic legislation and the source of hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy incentives.
Boebert has called the law “a massive failure” that “needs to be repealed.” But Biden was planning to demonstrate otherwise during a tour of CS Wind in the town of Pueblo before his trip was postponed. The company is undergoing a $200 million expansion that is expected to create 850 jobs by 2026 with help from the tax benefits in the law.
Pueblo is one of the anchors of Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which covers more ground than Pennsylvania. Boebert won her seat in 2020 and barely held on to it during the 2022 midterms.
There’s maximum chaos in Congress right now for House Republicans, who ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as their speaker but have been unable to settle on a replacement. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a prominent ally of Donald Trump, is the current leading candidate to replace McCarthy, but victory for him is uncertain.
Despite low unemployment and slowing inflation, Biden has been struggling to convince Americans that his policies are good for the U.S. economy.
An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said just 36% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, roughly where his numbers have stood for a year and a half.
The president and other top administration officials have been traveling the country to promote their Investing in America agenda. Last week, the president visited a marine terminal in Philadelphia, where he announced that the area would become one of seven regional hubs for producing and delivering hydrogen fuel.
“I truly believe this country is about to take off,” Biden said. “For the first time in a long time we’re actually investing in America.”