Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on Monday, informing them that if legislators don't raise the debt ceiling, the United States could run out of money to pay its bills by June 1.
Congress needs to act now to "protect the full faith and credit of the United States," Yellen wrote, adding, "We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States."
The debt ceiling is the amount of money the government is authorized to borrow to pay its bills, and last week, House Republicans narrowly passed a bill that raises the ceiling by $1.5 trillion, but slashes federal spending. President Biden has said Congress must raise the debt ceiling without any conditions, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his chamber won't take up the measure.
On Monday afternoon, Biden invited Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to a meeting on May 9 to discuss the debt limit, a White House official told The Washington Post. Earlier in the day, Biden said Republicans need to "make sure the threat by the speaker of the House to default on the national debt is off the table. For over 200 years, America has never, ever failed to pay its debt. To put in the capital — in colloquial terms, America is not a deadbeat nation. We have never, ever failed to meet the debt."
Treasury officials have made it clear that there is no time to waste — should Congress fail to raise the debt limit, "a default by the U.S. government — including the failure to pay any of the United States' obligations — would be an economic catastrophe, sparking a global downturn of unknown but substantial severity," Eric Van Nostrand, acting assistant secretary of economic policy, said.