Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) issued a joint statement Friday calling on Congress to avoid a potential default “forced by extreme MAGA Republicans,” the opening salvo in what will be a months-long battle over raising the federal debt limit.
Lawmakers in both parties predict the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate are headed for a showdown with newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the debt limit after McCarthy pledged to House conservatives last week to attach spending reforms to debt limit legislation.
Schumer and Jeffries called on Republicans to move quickly on debt limit legislation without having to go through lengthy and arduous spending negotiations, as Congress did three times under President Trump.
“Congress must act on legislation to prevent a disastrous default, meet our obligations and protect the full faith and credit of the United States. A default forced by extreme MAGA Republicans could plunge the country into a deep recession and lead to even higher costs for America’s working families on everything from mortgages and car loans to credit card interest rates,” the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement, referring to former President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Schumer and Jeffries argue that addressing the debt limit “is about meeting obligations the government has already made” to various constituencies, such as Social Security recipients and veterans.
“The debt limit was increased in a bipartisan way three times when Donald Trump was president, twice when Republicans had majorities in the House and Senate. This time should be no different,” they said.
They noted that Democrats want to move quickly to pass debt limit legislation “so there is no chance of risking a catastrophic default,” and alluded to the nation’s credit downgrade in 2011 after a prolonged standoff over raising the debt limit.
“We’ve seen in previous debt ceiling stand-offs that even the threat of default leads to even higher costs for working families. Republican leaders must do the right thing to protect Social Security, the economy and our country,” Schumer and Jeffries warned.
They issued their statement shortly after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned McCarthy and other congressional leaders Friday that the nation would hit the debt limit on Jan. 19, requiring the Treasury Department to take extraordinary measures to prolong the nation’s solvency another few months.
Yellen estimated those measures would allow the federal government to cover its financial obligations until at least early June.
“It is therefore critical that Congress act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit. Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans and global financial stability,” she wrote.