Yellen breaks the debt ceiling ice
The months-long silence between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is reaching an abrupt end thanks to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Why it matters: Yellen's urgent deadline on the debt ceiling gives the White House and Congress as little as a month to avert a catastrophic default, spurring Biden to call an emergency meeting with congressional heads.
Reality check: The timeline is more urgent than it looks, and a vast chasm remains between the two parties.
- Biden plans to push a clean debt ceiling increase at the planned May 9 meeting with congressional leadership despite Republicans ruling it out.
- The Senate is only in session for 14 days before June 1, while the House is in for 12 days.
What they're saying: Senate Democrats interviewed by Axios on Monday stood firm in their opposition to tying the debt ceiling to budget cuts despite the newly truncated timeline.
- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), one of three Trump-state Democrats in the Senate, told reporters he is supportive of Biden negotiating deficit reduction with McCarthy, "but not on the debt ceiling."
- "The only thing scarier than not negotiating with [Republicans] is negotiating with them," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), because "they will never, ever stop holding ... the American economy hostage."
The other side: Republicans celebrated Biden's decision to come to the table, but shut down the idea of a clean debt ceiling increase with seemingly no wiggle room.
- "Won't pass the House, won't pass the Senate," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) leadership team.
- Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled he would only be willing to do that for a "very short term" extension – 30 days or less, he specified – to give negotiators enough time to reach a deal.
The bottom line: Few other senators aside from Cramer were willing to even entertain the idea of a short-term increase or suspension.
- "If everybody starts thinking we can get an extension, then the crisis won't happen until the end of that extension," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), "That's just the way it works up here."