President Biden on Monday slammed Republican lawmakers over their refusal to raise the debt ceiling, calling their opposition “hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.”
“Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds, especially as we’re clawing our way out of this pandemic,” Biden said during remarks at the White House on raising the debt ceiling.
Biden’s comments came one week after Senate Republicans blocked a key procedural vote to advance a House-passed short-term government funding bill that would have suspended the debt limit until December 2022. Three days later, Congress passed a two-month funding bill to avert a government shutdown and keep federal agencies open until December 3 — without suspending the debt limit.
Republicans also blocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) from setting up a stand-alone bill to suspend the debt ceiling last week.
On Monday, Biden told Republicans that if they “don’t want to save the country” to “just get out of the way” and allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own.
The president said the GOP’s refusal to vote with Democrats to raise or suspend the debt ceiling or to allow a simple majority vote through unanimous consent is “reckless” and “dangerous.”
Before Biden’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) wrote in a letter to the president that he “respectfully” submits that “it is time for you to engage directly with congressional Democrats” on raising the debt ceiling.
“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,” McConnell wrote.
“Republicans’ position is simple. We have no list of demands. 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,” McConnell added.
Democrats had sought to include a debt limit increase in the funding bill as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that Congress has until October 18 to act on the debt ceiling or risk a historic default.
“Raising the debt limit is about paying off our old debts,” Biden said. “It has nothing to do with any new spending being considered. It has nothing to do with my plan for infrastructure or building back better.”
He went on to say that raising the debt limit is “usually a bipartisan undertaking” and that “the reason we have to raise the debt limit is in part because of the reckless tax and spending policies under the previous Trump administration.”
Biden noted that during Trump’s four years in office, the administration incurred nearly 8 trillion dollars in debt.
“Republicans in Congress raised the debt three times when Donald Trump was president and each time with Democrats’ support,” he said. “But now they won’t raise it even though they’re responsible for more than 8 trillion in bills incurred in four years under the previous administration. That’s what we’d be paying off.”
“They won’t raise it even though defaulting on the debt will lead to a self-inflicted wound that takes our economy over a cliff and risks jobs and retirement savings, social security benefits, salaries for service members, benefits for veterans and so much more,” he added.
Biden later said he could not say for certain that the U.S. won’t default on obligations.
“No I can’t, that’s up to Mitch McConnell,” he said. “I can’t believe that that will be the end result because the consequences are so dire… But can I guarantee it? If I could I would, but I can’t.”
Schumer wrote in a letter to Democrats on Monday that Congress must act to raise the debt ceiling by week’s end, though he did not outline a timeline or strategy for moving forward.
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