Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday sidestepped a question about how the department would pick and choose which of the country’s bills would go unpaid if the U.S. defaults on its debt.
Yellen confirmed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that some bills will go unpaid if the debt ceiling isn’t raised as soon as June 1, calling the limit a constraint on the country’s ability to pay its debts.
“Have you decided which bills those are going to be yet?” host Chuck 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.
Yellen has warned that the U.S. could default on its debt as soon as June 1, and said on Sunday that the odds of the country making it to June 15 while being able to pay all of the nation’s bills are “quite low.”
President Biden is headed home early from an international trip so he can resume in-person negotiations on the debt ceiling with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The White House has called for a clean debt ceiling increase, while House Republicans are pushing for an increase tied to spending cuts.
Both sides remained deadlocked, though McCarthy and Biden are set to speak by phone while Biden flies back to the U.S. from Japan as negotiations remain at a deadlock as of Sunday morning.
Biden said on Sunday that he thinks he has the authority to use a clause in the 14th Amendment to unilaterally address the debt ceiling, though Yellen expressed hesitation about the idea.
“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,” she said.
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