Biden Blames Republicans in Address on Debt Ceiling

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
October 4, 2021 Updated: October 4, 2021

President Joe Biden in a speech Monday urged Congress to raise the country’s debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the money it owes for the first time ever.

“Defaulting on the debt would lead to a self-inflicted wound that takes our economy over a cliff,” he said in a White House live stream from the State Dining Room.

Congress has until an Oct. 18 deadline to increase the nation’s limit on what it allows the Treasury to borrow. The limit was suspended three times during the Trump administration and has been raised dozens of times since its creation at the start of World War I.

Biden blames Republicans for the inaction to raise the limit now, saying they are obstructing a vote with the use of the filibuster and “playing Russian Roulette with the U.S. economy.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans have voiced opposition to raising the limit and have called for less government spending.

In a letter to the president Monday, McConnell reiterated that position saying Democrats will need to “raise the debt limit on their own.” McConnell urged Biden to lean on Democratic leadership to raise the debt ceiling through the reconciliation process writing, “Senate Democrats do not need Republican cooperation in any shape or form to do their job. Democrats do not need our consent to set a vote at 51 instead of 60.”

Biden told reporters he has read the letter and plans to talk to McConnell about it.

“He and I have been down this road once before back when I was Vice President,” said Biden. “And I hope we can have some intelligent and honest conversation.”

At a Sept. 28 press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rejected using the reconciliation process to raise the limit calling it “risky” and a “non-starter.”

Biden echoed that sentiment Monday saying that path is “fraught with all kinds of potential danger of miscalculation.”

National Economic Council senior advisor Jesse Lee also responded to McConnell’s letter on Twitter, writing, “All Sen. McConnell has to do to remove his own political threat from the US economy & American families is stop filibustering. Democrats will do their jobs to address the debt limit since he refuses to. Just stop blocking the vote. American has been through enough. Let’s do it today.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the Treasury is using “extraordinary measures” to continue to fund the government, and has warned it would be “catastrophic,” if the nation defaults, financial analysts at Moody’s and J.P. Morgan Bank agree. The suspended debt limit was reinstated in August at a level of $22 trillion, about $6 trillion less than the current U.S. debt.

Congress was able to unite on Sept. 30 to pass stopgap legislation to fund the government through December and avert a shutdown, but that measure did not address the debt ceiling.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.