Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday repeated her assessment that June 1 is a “hard deadline” for Congress to raise the debt ceiling as the White House continues to negotiate with Republicans to end the standoff.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are set to meet at the White House on Monday to continue those talks. Biden chose to shorten his trip overseas to break the impasse, canceling visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“Well, I indicated in my last letter to Congress that we expect to be unable to pay all of our bills in early June, and possibly as soon as June 1st,” Yellen said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “And I will continue to update Congress, but I certainly haven’t changed my assessment. So I think that that’s a hard deadline.”
Yellen added that if Congress fails to act “some bills [will] have to go unpaid,” but would not specify which ones when pressed by NBC’s Chuck Todd.
“I would say we’re focused on raising the debt ceiling and there will be hard choices if that doesn’t occur,” she warned. “There can be no acceptable outcomes if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, regardless of what decisions we make.”
Republicans have demanded spending cuts and other policy changes in exchange for their votes to raise the debt ceiling, a borrowing limit placed on the government. Failing to raise the limit would be catastrophic for the economy and for the many people who rely on government services and aid.
Biden said Sunday that “default is not an option” and called on Republicans to abandon their “extreme positions.”
“It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely — solely on their partisan terms,” he said during a press conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where he attended the Group of Seven leaders summit. “They have to move as well.”
The Treasury Secretary dismissed the idea that Biden could invoke the 14th Amendment’s section on government debt and unilaterally raise the debt limit — a strategy progressive lawmakers have urged the president to pursue in lieu of continuing negotiations with the GOP.
“It doesn’t seem like something that could be appropriately used in these circumstances, given the legal uncertainty around it and given the tight time frame we’re on,” Yellen said.
Biden and McCarthy spoke by phone on Sunday while the president was on his way back to the U.S. The House speaker told reporters afterward that the call was “productive” even though a deal has yet to be reached.
“We’re still apart,” McCarthy said.
Yellen wrote to congressional leaders last week to stress the dire consequences of a default, as well as the harm already being done as the debt limit talks drag out.
“If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, it would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position, and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests,” Yellen wrote.