scorecardCongress could have as little as 10 days to solve the debt ceiling crisis before Americans might start losing federal benefits and retirement savings
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Congress could have as little as 10 days to solve the debt ceiling crisis before Americans might start losing federal benefits and retirement savings

Juliana Kaplan,Ayelet Sheffey   

Congress could have as little as 10 days to solve the debt ceiling crisis before Americans might start losing federal benefits and retirement savings
PolicyPolicy3 min read
  • The US could run out of money to pay its debts as soon as June 1, and there's still no resolution.
  • Democrats and Republicans haven't made much progress in negotiations, which resume today.

It's crunch time for Congress to find a solution to raise the debt ceiling before the US hurdles into a catastrophic and unprecedented default in a matter of days.

Right now, the country's X-date — when the government is projected to run out of money to pay its debts — could come as early as June 1, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, while Goldman Sachs and Moody's Analytics estimate that the ceiling could be hit around June 8.

Even a short default could mean nearly a million Americans losing their jobs, and the country sliding into a mild recession, according to Moody's Analytics. A breach would also hit Americans in their wallets: A Joint Economic Committee analysis previously found that failure to lift the debt ceiling could cost workers $20,000 in retirement savings.

"If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, it would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position, and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests," Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week.

On Friday, GOP Rep. Garret Graves, who has been a key player in debt ceiling negotiations, told reporters that debt ceiling talks were on "pause" due to "unreasonable" demands from the White House, casting extreme uncertainty over whether both parties could find common ground before the US defaults on its debt.

"Unless they are willing to have reasonable conversations about how you can actually move forward and do the right thing, we're not going to sit here and talk to ourselves," Graves told reporters.

Over the weekend, talks did resume between President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, but it still doesn't look like significant progress was made toward an eventual deal.

"It's time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely on their partisan terms. They have to move as well," Biden said during a Sunday press conference in Japan. "All four congressional leaders agree with me that default is not an option. And I expect each of these leaders to live up to that commitment. America has never defaulted on our debt, and it never will."

Biden and McCarthy are set to meet again on Monday, and it's growing increasingly critical that the two sides make progress in their negotiations to allow time for a bill to be brought to the floor — and the legislative process to be carried out — before June.

"I think we can solve some of these problems if he understands what we're looking at," McCarthy told reporters on Sunday. "But I've been very clear to him from the very beginning. We have to spend less money than we spent last year."

There are other options on the table that would allow Biden to address the ceiling without Congress. One of those options would be minting a $1 trillion platinum coin, which would allow the Treasury to stay on top of its bills until it finds a more permanent solution. Another option that's been gaining steam in Congress is invoking a clause in the 14th Amendment that would declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional, getting rid of the problem forever.

On Thursday, a group of Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called on Biden to prepare to use the 14th amendment if Congress continues to fail reaching a debt ceiling agreement, and on Friday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus joined the push, as well. Still, Biden has continued to express skepticism with going that route.

"I'm looking at the 14th Amendment, as to whether or not we have the authority. I think we have the authority," Biden said on Sunday. "The question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt. That's a question that I think is unresolved."

But even with potential litigation, some Democratic lawmakers think Biden should do whatever it takes to ensure the US does not default on its debt.

"There's a binding legal requirement to pay bondholders, there's a binding legal requirement to pay Social Security and Medicare recipients," Rep. Jamie Raskin told Insider last week. "So the president can't violate those statutory directives, nor can he violate the constitutional command. So a debt limit statute that purports to compel the president to violate the law in the Constitution is of dubious legality."




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