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Biden willing to discuss debt ceiling with Republican leader as default looms

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Republicans, who took control of the House of Representatives in January 2023, have threatened to block the usual annual rubber stamping of a rise in the US debt ceiling./AFP
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Jan 23, 2023 - 01:39 AM

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy both indicated Friday they are willing to discuss raising the US debt ceiling, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers head toward a high-stakes clash over raising the nation’s borrowing limit.

Their comments come one day after the US Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” to help temporarily reduce the amount of outstanding debt subject to the limit, currently set at $31.4 trillion, and avoid defaulting on its payments.

Republicans, who took control of the House of Representatives earlier this month, have threatened to block the usual annual rubber stamping of a rise in the limit.

But White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre insisted in a statement Friday that “raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation,” and that Biden wants to talk with Republican McCarthy on a “range of issues” as the speaker begins his tenure.

Raising the debt ceiling “is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos,” Jean-Pierre said.

“Congress has always done it, and the president expects them to do their duty once again,” she added.

“That is not negotiable.”

Earlier Friday, McCarthy indicated in a tweet that he is open to raising the debt limit as part of talks on spending cuts.

“President Biden: I accept your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending,” he posted.

“I look forward to our meeting.”

Jean-Pierre said the meeting would touch on several economic topics, including Democrat Biden’s plans to cut the nation’s budget deficit “by making the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share,” rather than by slashing politically sensitive social spending.

“We are going to have a clear debate on two different visions for the country — one that cuts Social Security, and one that protects it — and the president is happy to discuss that with the speaker,” she said in the statement.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned earlier in the day that the United States could trigger a “global financial crisis” if it defaults on debt payments, causing an increase in borrowing costs and undermining the role of the dollar as an international reserve currency.

“I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” she wrote in a letter to congressional leadership Thursday.

Debates surrounding spending and raising the debt ceiling have grown increasingly contentious in recent years, though Congress has acted 78 times to permanently or temporarily deal with the limit since 1960, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

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