Biden ramps up pressure on Republicans to raise debt ceiling: 'The United States pays its bills'
By Arlette Saenz, Betsy Klein and Kate Sullivan, CNN
(CNN) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday ramped up the pressure on Republicans as the nation nears the deadline to raise the debt ceiling and argued the GOP is putting the country at risk of a possible debt default by standing firm against raising the nation's debt limit.
"The United States pays its bills. It's who we are, it's who we've been, it's who we're going to continue to be, God willing," Biden said.
Biden noted if there was a default, it would be the first time in the nation's history. He stressed there would be catastrophic consequences, and echoed comments he made on Monday by calling the Republican position "hypocritical," "dangerous, and a bit disgraceful."
"My Republican friends need to stop playing Russian roulette with the US economy. If they don't want to do the job, just get out of the way. We'll take the heat. We'll do it. We will do it. Let us do it. Let the Democrats vote to raise the debt limit without obstruction or any further delays," Biden said.
Biden said Republicans were "teetering on the brink here" and said they were threatening to undermine the United States' standing in the world with a "cynical, destructive partisan ploy, just for politics."
"It's a meteor headed to crash into our economy. We should all want to stop it, stop it immediately. This shouldn't be partisan," Biden said.
The meeting with business leaders came before Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly floated two potential options to avert a default. McConnell said that Republicans have "already made it clear" that they would "assist in expediting" a process known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to raise the debt limit without GOP votes. Democrats have been generally opposed to that idea, however, calling it too unwieldy, time-consuming and risky. In addition to that, McConnell said that Republicans "will also allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December."
In response to that offer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, "We could get this done today. We don't need to kick the can. We don't need to go through a cumbersome process that every day brings additional risks."
Psaki added, "There's been no formal offer made -- a press release is not a formal offer."
"Even the scant details that have been reported present more complicated, more difficult options than the one that is quite obvious in the President's view, and it's in front of the faces of every member up on the Hill," Psaki said.
The President said Americans' pocketbooks would be directly impacted by a default. He noted Social Security benefits, salaries to service members and benefits to veterans, as well as many other programs providing financial assistance, would stop.
"The failure to raise the debt limit will undermine the safety of the United States treasury securities, threaten the reserve status of the dollar as the world currency that the world relies on, downgrade America's credit rating and result in a rise in interest rates for families talking about mortgages, auto loans, credit cards," Biden said.
The President met with top banking, financial and other industry leaders at the White House Wednesday as he ratchets up the public pressure campaign to raise the nation's debt limit in a bipartisan way as Republicans continue to block efforts to do so.
Democrats are able to raise the debt ceiling on their own without Republican votes but would need to use the lengthy reconciliation process to do so. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have said they are not willing to use that process and instead are looking for Republicans to cooperate with paying the nation's bills.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was in attendance on Wednesday, said last month that the nation will run out of money to pay its bills on October 18, leaving the US facing default for the first time in its history.
Yellen said Wednesday the moment "demands immediate attention" and said there would be a "catastrophic outcome" without Congressional action.
"Default will call into question the full faith and credit of the United States. Our country would likely face a financial crisis, causing interest rates to rise quickly, and restricting access to credit. We would likely experience a recession. Millions of jobs would be lost, and the pain would endure well past the resolution of the crisis," Yellen said.
On Tuesday, Biden said it's a "real possibility" Senate Democrats could allow for a one-time carveout of Senate filibuster rules in order to address the debt ceiling, but it's unclear whether Democrats would have enough votes within their own party for the rule change.
The meeting with business leaders and CEOs of major financial institutions and other industries at the White House Wednesday afternoon was another opportunity for Biden to make his case on the debt limit as officials have warned of the dire economic consequences of failing to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
The meeting will include leaders of major banks, like Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Leaders in the housing, business, tech and defense industries will also be in attendance, along with the CEO of AARP -- Jo Ann Jenkins - whose organization represents millions of Americans whose Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits would be at risk if there was a default, the official noted. Some of the leaders are expected to attend virtually.
The full invite list includes Dimon; Moynihan; Jenkins, Jane Fraser, CEO of Citi; Greg Hayes, CEO of Raytheon; Charlie Oppser, president of the National Association of Realtors; Adena Friedman, president and CEO of Nasqaq; Punit Renjen, global CEO of Deloitte; and Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel.
Yellen, White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will also be in attendance.
"These executives represent some of America's best-known companies and industries, and they understand firsthand that a default would be economically devastating -- risking millions of jobs and throwing our country into recession, and causing lasting harm to America's economic strength by threatening the dollar's status as the currency the world relies on and downgrading the U.S.'s credit rating," a White House official said.
Earlier this week, Biden told reporters that he couldn't guarantee the debt ceiling would be raised.
"No I can't -- that's up to Mitch McConnell. ... I can't believe that that would be the end result, because the consequences are so dire. I don't believe that, but can I guarantee it? If I could, I would, but I can't," Biden said.
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