Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has sent a letter to President Joe Biden informing him he must rely on the slim Democrat majority in Congress to raise the country’s debt ceiling because Republicans won’t be helping.
The letter comes after the Kentucky Republican has said for months the GOP won’t help Democrats lift the ceiling, despite the risk of a U.S. government default, Politico reported.
“I respectfully submit that it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats on this matter,” McConnell wrote, according to the outlet, which obtained a copy. “Your lieutenants in Congress must understand that you do not want your unified Democratic government to sleepwalk toward an avoidable catastrophe when they have had nearly three months’ notice to do their job.”
Delivered to the White House on Monday, McConnell’s letter references the president’s past opposition to increasing the debt limit when he was a U.S. senator in the minority.
“The president’s party had to take responsibility for a policy agenda which you opposed. Your view then is our view now,” McConnell reminded.
Biden and McConnell have “jointly helped avert fiscal catastrophe several times when Biden was vice president due to their long-running relationship and mutual trust,” Politico added, but now, neither of them is speaking to each other as a “calamitous fight over the debt ceiling” in Congress approaches.
The Monday letter and the president’s subsequent address later in the day regarding the debt ceiling “amount to their first real communication on the most perilous deadline Congress will face this year,” Politico noted.
Following his speech, Biden took questions from reporters, saying at one point that he had read McConnell’s letter and that he would be contacting the minority leader to discuss it in the evenly-divided chamber. Asked if he would be able to guarantee that the debt ceiling is raised, the president responded: “No I can’t. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.”
In the past, both men have praised their working relationship, which had been close. During his presidential campaign, Biden said he would be able to bridge gaps and work with McConnell. Also, over the summer, McConnell shocked many on both sides of the aisle when he agreed to back Biden’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill.
But now, when the crucial issue facing the country — a potential default, which could be disastrous — neither man appears willing to negotiate, Politico reported.
In his letter, McConnell told Biden that the reluctance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to take on the debt ceiling vote along party lines “is not an excuse, it’s just a complaint.” In addition, McConnell said he won’t give them a “shortcut around procedural hurdles they can clear on their own.”
A close Biden ally, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), remarked to Politico that McConnell’s position “has to stick in the president’s craw. This is something that’s been routinely done. There’s been bipartisan cooperation about working together to raise the debt ceiling, dozens and dozens of times.”
Biden and Democrats have argued that the debt is bipartisan and that it shot up during former President Donald Trump’s presidency too.
What’s more, lawmakers are under pressure to raise it and soon. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Tuesday the U.S. economy would lapse into recession if the debt isn’t raised, which would be unprecedented.
“I do regard Oct. 18 as a deadline. It would be catastrophic to not pay the government’s bills, for us to be in a position where we lacked the resources to pay the government’s bills,” Yellen told CNBC.
She also indicated that a default could have a global impact.
“U.S. Treasury securities have long been viewed as the safest asset on the planet,” Yellen told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “That partly accounts for the reserve status of the dollar. And placing that in question by failing to pay any of our bills that come due would really be a catastrophic outcome.”
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