Washington, Oct 4 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Monday accused Republicans in Congress of acting “hypocritically” and “dangerously” by refusing to raise the US debt ceiling, and he acknowledged that, without GOP cooperation, he will not be able to guarantee that the government will be able to pay its bills this month.
When asked during a White House event if he could guarantee that the US will not exceed the debt limit this month, Biden responded, “No, I can’t. That’s up to (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell,” the head of the Republicans in the upper house of Congress, where Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats.
The president added: “I can’t believe that that will be the end result because the consequence is so dire.”
Biden said that Congress must vote to raise the debt limit so that the government can pay off its outstanding debts, noting raising the limit has nothing to do with funding his currentl proposals, including the $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs and infrastructure legislation, which includes $550 billion in new spending.
“We always pay what we owe,” Biden said. “It’s rock solid. It’s the best in the world,” going on to say that GOP lawmakers have refused to let Democrats pay the country’s outstanding debts, including some $8 trillion owed by the US government for spending during the Republican Donald Trump administration.
“They need to stop playing Russian roulette with the US economy,” Biden said, regarding the Republicans.
The Senate is currently debating a bill already approved by the House that would raise the debt limit, and the president said that it is urgent that it be approved before the government’s borrowing authority runs out on Oct. 18. If this bill is not approved, he noted, the financial markets could panic, and this could slash the value of the public’s retirement savings and hike interest rates on borrowing.
“That’s the only way to eliminate the uncertainty and risk that’s going to harm American families and the economy,” Biden said. “Let us vote and end the mess.”
The Department of State has warned that if the debt ceiling is not raised the country could be forced to suspend paying on its sovereign debt, an unprecedented situation that could have dire consequences for the economy.
But the leadership of the GOP, a party that has traditionally favored fiscal discipline, is opposing raising the debt celing and the Democrats would need at least 10 votes from Senate Republicans to approve the measure.
Biden said that GOP senators “won’t vote to raise the debt to cover their own spending” under Trump, adding that “Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they’re threating to use their power to prevent us from doing our job: Saving the economy from a catastrophic event.”
“I think, quite frankly, it’s hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful,” the president added. “Just get out of the way.”
Biden warned that suspending US government payments would threaten the status of the US dollar as a reserve currency on which the world depends.
He also said that, 10 minutes before delivering a White House speech, he had read a letter sent to him by McConnell in which the GOP leader said that the Democrats would have to rely on Democratic votes alone to try and raise the debt ceiling via a legislative mechanism called “reconciliation” that allows bills to be approved with a simple majority rather than requiring the support of 60 senators.
Biden said that he was skeptical of that but he added that he would continue speaking with McConnell to achieve the objective he has set forth, namely for Congress to approve raising the debt ceiling this week.
The goverment may only borrow money to pay its bills up to the limit established by Congress, and lawmakers have the power to raise that limit if they believe it is appropriate.
The US has never had to suspend its payments on its sovereign debt, but it came close to that precipice in 2011, when Democrat Barack Obama was president.
At that time, due to the political brinksmanship surrounding the debt limit, huge chaos erupted in the financial markets, a scenario caused the US to lose its perfect credit rating and Standard & Poor’s to reduce its US long-term debt assessment from AAA to AA+ with a negative outlook.