Treasury Secretary Yellen calls House GOP 'irresponsible' for demanding spending cuts amid shutdown

Some Democrats, such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, have said that Biden should not negotiate with the GOP on the debt ceiling.

Updated: January 22, 2023 - 4:27pm

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that House Republicans are being "very irresponsible" and risk creating a global economic catastrophe by demanding spending cuts in return for raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

During her diplomatic trip to Africa, Yellen said during an interview Saturday with The Associated Press that she believes Congress will vote to raise the U.S. debt limit, but making the increase conditional on spending cuts is "a very irresponsible thing to do."

Yellen said late last week that the Treasury is implementing "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting after the U.S. hit the $31.38 trillion debt ceiling.

A U.S. default on debt "would impose a self-imposed calamity in the United States and the world economy," she said Saturday. 

"Congress needs to understand that this is about paying bills that have already been incurred by decisions with this and past Congresses and it's not about new spending," Yellen said. She stated that she believes in the importance of responsible government debt levels, "but it can't be negotiated over whether or not we're going to pay our bills."

Some Democrats, such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, have said that President Joe Biden should not negotiate with Republicans on the debt ceiling.

West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin said he is in support of discussions with the GOP and thinks spending needs to be reined in. During a CNN interview Sunday, he said: "Every American has to live within a budget. If they don't, they're in trouble financially. ... Shouldn't the federal government have some guardrails that say, hey, guys, you're getting over you're overreaching here and you're overspending?"

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Biden "looks forward to meeting" with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to discuss a range of issues, but "raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation."

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