Republicans offer temporary fix to US debt crisis

The top Republican Senate leader on Wednesday proposed a truce to squabbling in Congress that risks pushing the United States into what the White House and industry leaders warn would be “catastrophic” debt default.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would allow Democrats to vote for temporarily lifting the debt ceiling, which is about to expire, triggering a government default, “into December”.

This would give Democrats time to find a longer-term solution and will “protect the American people from a near-term Democrat-created crisis,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s decision to create a little breathing room came right after President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and a string of heavyweight CEOs lined up at a White House roundtable to warn of “catastrophic” fallout.

The debt ceiling is a legal limit on the ever-ballooning US national debt. As the maximum is reached over the years, Congress has routinely and usually without much controversy voted to extend the ceiling.

This time, Republicans have taken a stand, saying they will not vote for more debt in protest at Biden’s plans for trillions of dollars in additional spending on infrastructure and the social safety net.

Democrats say the Republicans are merely trying to derail Biden’s domestic agenda and cause chaos, which they would then blame on him ahead of next year’s congressional elections.

Yellen repeated her forecast that the US government will essentially run out of cash after October 18 if the ceiling is not relaxed in time. “This would be a catastrophic outcome,” she said.

Biden added: “Our Republican friends need to stop playing Russian Roulette with the US economy.”

While Democrats have a razor thin majority in the 100-seat Senate, with 50 members and the vice presidential tie break, Republicans use a procedural rule to require a majority of 60 votes on most bills. That leaves Democrats helpless to move forward without significant Republican backing. (AFP)