WASHINGTON (Businesshala) – US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday it would be the responsibility of lawmakers to raise the federal debt limit and expressed confidence that Congress would do so after the temporary relief expires on December 3.
“Once Congress and the administration have decided on spending plans and tax plans, it’s their responsibility to pay the bills that result,” Yellen told ABC’s “This Week” program. “This is housekeeping work. Because really, we should debate the government’s fiscal policy.”
After weeks of partisan fighting, the Senate here on Thursday approved a short-term fix that would allow the United States to avoid defaults on its bills until December 3. These bills were supposed to pay for previous Congressional decisions, Yellen noted, referring to the spending Republican lawmakers had backed.
On Friday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a letter to Biden that he would not help Democrats here again raise the debt limit.
“I don’t believe any president has ever had to decide what they would do if Congress failed to raise the debt limit. I can’t imagine us being there on December 3rd,” Yellen said.
Yellen said he was confident that Congressional Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, “will be able to manage it so that we don’t face this situation.”
He refused to invoke the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which says the legitimacy of the US public debt “shall not be questioned.” Some Democrats have argued it could be used to invalidate the debt limit, but that would be a legal battle that would likely go to the Supreme Court.
Congressional Democrats are working on President Joe Biden’s broader social safety net agenda but have yet to agree on a target size for the multitrillion-dollar spending bill.
Yellen appeared open to the idea of means-testing some programs in a plan to target the Americans who need it most, a move backed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is pushing for a slimmer bill.
“There’s a trade-off. We know that programs that are universal are long-lasting and very popular,” Yellen said. “But there’s also an argument, you know, for sure. The highest-income Americans probably don’t get the benefits of a program that’s most needed by low-income people.”