Janet Yellen, the United States Treasury Secretary, has written to Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, warning that the federal government may exceed its spending limit by June 1 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling. Yellen’s letter, which was published on Monday, noted that available data suggests that the government will no longer be able to cover its expenses in early June if Congress does not raise the limit before then.
Yellen emphasised the importance of Congress taking action to increase or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible, to ensure that the government can continue to make its payments. While Yellen’s letter indicates the US could enter default as early as June 1, she also noted that it is impossible to predict the exact date when Treasury will be unable to pay the government’s bills.
The potential for a default has raised concerns among experts about its possible impact on the US economy. It could lead to a fall in the US credit rating, resulting in higher interest rates and a possible recession. The process of raising the US spending limits is typically routine, but it has become increasingly contentious in recent years. Republicans in Congress are pushing for steep cuts to social programs in exchange for their support to raise the debt ceiling this year. In contrast, the Biden administration has called for an increase to the debt ceiling without conditions, stating that debates over various programs can be hashed out during negotiations on the yearly budget.
Last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill that agreed to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for $4.5 trillion in spending cuts for programs like healthcare for low-income communities, renewable energy and transportation. The bill is considered dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled US Senate, and Biden has stated that he would veto it. However, its passage in the House is considered a victory for McCarthy, who has since called for Democrats to approve the bill and avoid a default.
Democrats have called for a “clean” debt limit increase without haggling or addendums. Virginia Senator Mark Warner tweeted on Monday that the US has about a month until it defaults on paying its debt and emphasised that this is not new spending, but about paying bills already incurred. On May 9, US President Joe Biden reportedly called for a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss spending and the debt limit. The Congressional Budget Office has also stated that it sees an increased risk of the government running out of funds by early June due to tax receipts that were lower than expected.
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