The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Biden, Yellen warn of potential ‘catastroph­e’ if debt limit not raised

- By Fatima Hussein and Chris Megerian

President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Tuesday of a potential economic crisis if a deal isn’t reached to increase the federal debt ceiling.

They raised the alarm during speeches to the National Associatio­n of Counties, which was holding a conference in Washington.

Biden said many local government­s have recovered from the pandemic, but “some in Congress are putting that progress at risk by threatenin­g to have America default on its debt, which would be catastroph­ic for counties and the country. Even coming close to default would raise borrowing costs, making it harder to finance key projects in your communitie­s.”

The concern over the debt ceiling is the result of a political showdown between House Republican­s, who are demanding spending cuts, and the Democratic president, who insists on raising the limit without conditions.

Yellen similarly warned of a “catastroph­e” in her own speech.

“In the longer term, a default would raise the cost of borrowing into perpetuity. Future investment­s, including public investment­s, would become substantia­lly more costly,” she said.

“Household payments on mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards would rise, and American businesses would see credit markets deteriorat­e,” she said. “On top of that, it is unlikely that the federal government would be able to issue payments to millions of Americans, including our military families and seniors who rely on Social Security.”

Yellen notified Congress last month that the U.S. Treasury Department has resorted to “extraordin­ary measures” to avoid default on the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing authority. But the extraordin­ary measures would likely run out — and put the U.S. at risk of default — sometime around early June.

In a Jan. 13 letter to House and Senate leaders, Yellen said her actions will buy time until Congress can pass legislatio­n that will either raise or suspend the limit, but she said it’s “critical that Congress act in a timely manner.”

Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met at the White House this month to discuss the issue. McCarthy told the president he would not raise the debt ceiling without concession­s from Democrats.

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