WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday criticized Republicans for not voting to raise the debt ceiling, accusing them of being “reckless and dangerous” in a way that could harm the economy.
“Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they’re threatening to use [the filibuster] to prevent us from doing our job — saving the economy from a catastrophic event,” Biden said during a speech at the White House.
The Democratic-controlled House last week passed legislation that temporarily suspends the debt ceiling. Senate Republicans, however, have said they will not vote to approve such a measure. Biden said the Republicans’ stance is “hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.”
“Especially as we’re clawing our way out of this pandemic,” Biden said.
“We’re not expecting Republicans to do their part,” Biden said. “We tried asking to no avail. We’re just asking to not use [the filibuster] to block us from doing the job they won’t do.”
Republicans argue that if Democrats want to govern alone — such as by trying to enact Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan through a legislative process that prohibits a GOP filibuster — they will have to raise the debt limit on their own.
“Republicans’ position is simple. We have no list of demands,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote to Biden on Monday. “For two and a half months, we have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well.”
That stance overlooks the fact that raising the debt limit merely allows the federal government to continue to cover debt it has already undertaken, not future spending.
The United States has never defaulted on its debts, even amid heightened partisan squabbling.
Senate Republicans have insisted that Democrats have enough votes to raise the ceiling through reconciliation, a filibuster-proof process that requires a simple majority in Senate. If all Democrats and two independents back such a bill, Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie and put the bill on Biden’s desk.
But Biden warned that reconciliation is “fraught with all kinds of potential danger for a miscalculation. It’s an incredibly complicated, cumbersome process.”
The process allows for two sets of unlimited amendment votes. The minority party typically uses the “vote-a-rama” to box the majority party into taking politically perilous votes.
Republicans “need to stop playing Russian roulette with the U.S. economy,” Biden said. “Let us vote and end the mess.”
Once the Treasury Department runs out of cash, payments to government workers, including military personnel, veterans and Social Security recipients would likely be delayed. A default would also affect taxpayers.
“Savings in your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Biden said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously said the department would run out of “emergency measures” to pay the nation’s debts on Oct. 18. The limit on federal borrowing is currently $28.4 trillion.
A U.S. default would not only upend global markets but also imperil America’s economy, likely causing unemployment rates to jump to 9 percent, experts have warned. Even waiting to the last minute to raise the limit “can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States for years to come,” Yellen wrote last week in a letter to congressional leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday told Democrats that a measure addressing debt limit must be on Biden’s desk by the end of this week.