Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday called the debt ceiling a “constraint” on the nation’s ability to pay its bills.
“We take the debt ceiling seriously as a constraint on our ability to pay bills that are coming due. And my assumption is that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, there will be hard choices to make about what bills go unpaid,” Yellen said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Treasury secretary stressed the looming June deadline by which her department expects it may be unable to stave off default, and underscored the dire debt ceiling circumstances.
“You’ll allow a default on some debt, if Congress doesn’t raise this debt ceiling?” host Chuck Todd asked Yellen on Sunday.
“We have to pay interest in principle on outstanding debt. We also have obligations to seniors who count on Social Security, our military that expects pay, contractors who’ve provided services to the federal government, and some bills have to go unpaid,” Yellen responded.
“Have you decided which bills those are going to be yet?” Todd asked.
“Look, I would say we’re focused on raising the debt ceiling. And there will be hard choices if that doesn’t occur. There can be no acceptable outcomes if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, regardless of what decisions we make,” Yellen said.
Negotiations between Congress and the White House have been stalled, and President Biden recently cut short his international trip in order to return to the U.S. to restart in-person negotiations on the debt ceiling with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Yellen also said on Sunday there’s been “much discussion” about whether Biden could move to use the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, without Congress, but said “it doesn’t seem like something that could be appropriately used in these circumstances, given the legal uncertainty around it, and given the tight timeframe we’re on.”
“It’s not an acceptable situation for us to be unable to pay our bills,” the Treasury secretary stressed.
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