The countdown to reach an agreement on the US debt ceiling continued on Tuesday, with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of irresponsibility and accusing each other of leading the country to default.
“We are really at a crossroads in this negotiation, but President (Joe) Biden has not taken this issue seriously,” the Republicans’ number two in the lower house, Steve Scalise, criticised at a press conference.
His appearance came a day after the president and the leader of the House, the conservative Kevin McCarthy, held a new meeting at the White House in which no agreement was reached but which McCarthy said was “productive”.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the Republican criticism as “ridiculous” and stressed that reaching an agreement goes beyond political squabbles.
“This is urgent, but it’s not political. It’s about getting the job done for the American people, we’ve asked Congress over and over again, over the last five months, to act, it’s their constitutional duty,” the spokeswoman told a press conference.
With 9 days to 1 June Democrats and Republicans fail to reach agreement on US debt ceiling
But with nine days to 1 June, the date on which the Treasury Department estimates that the reserves with which government obligations are currently being financed could run out, the Republicans made it clear that this eventual default cannot be blamed on them.
“Biden is trying to rewrite history, insisting that he has ‘done his part’ on the debt limit and that he would be ‘off the hook’ if the US defaults. However, the truth is that it refused to negotiate for more than 100 days. Make no mistake: any default would be his fault,” McCarthy’s cabinet said on Tuesday.
The Republican-controlled lower house last month passed a bill that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for sweeping cuts in government spending, and conservatives are relying on that text to claim that it is now up to the Senate and Democrats to break the deadlock.
Biden does not come up with ideas, criticises Republicans
“We worked for months to put together a coalition to pass a bill that addresses the debt ceiling and also Washington’s spending problem. And the response from Biden that we’re seeing in the last few days is to continue to not put serious ideas on the table,” Scalise criticised.
Democrats, however, accuse the opposing camp of prioritising politics over the needs of the people and using the debt ceiling as a hostage to try to get their agenda met.”The majority in Congress wants the American people to make an impossible choice: accept devastating cuts or a devastating default,” stressed the Democrats’ “number two” in the lower house, Katherine Clark.
In her view, conservatives “have manufactured a crisis so they can take advantage of and threaten the very people they came to Washington to represent. This is my advice to Leader McCarthy: start listening to the people we represent.
The US has never defaulted on sovereign debt, but from time to time it does, since, unlike other nations, its executive can only issue debt up to the limit set by Congress, which has the power to suspend that ceiling as it sees fit.
The current limit of $31.4 trillion was reached last January. The government is currently drawing on money in its reserves to pay the debts it has incurred, but the Treasury Department estimates that those reserves will be exhausted on 1 June, at which point it would default.