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Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Meet the Press. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Five former Secretaries of Defense — who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents — pressed congressional leadership in a letter Wednesday to raise the debt ceiling in order to "avoid catastrophic consequences" for the military and weaken America's position in the world.

Why it matters: If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by October 18th, Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen warned that the U.S. would default on its loans for the first time in history, which would have devastating consequences for the national and global economy.

Driving the news: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) along with other Republicans have said they will not help Democrats raise the debt ceiling. Biden said Tuesday it was a "real possibility" that Democrats would change the Senate rules in order to do so on their own.

Details: The letter was written by former Secretaries of Defense William Perry, William Cohen, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter, and James Mattis.

  • The letter explains that the government has already authorized payments for federal contractors and failure to pay these contractors would "jeopardize ongoing military training and readiness."
  • The letter also explained that the government employs 2.1 million service members and if the government were to default on its loans it is unclear if any of those salaries would be paid back.
  • They also explained that the U.S. defaulting on debt would "send a signal to our friends and our adversaries that America does not keep its word to our military forces."

What they're saying: "As former Secretaries of Defense, we were always proud that Republicans and Democrats consistently came together to provide strong bipartisan support for the bills that authorize and provide expenditures to maintain the strongest military force in the world," the letter reads.

  • "It would be tragic to allow partisanship to now deny those critical resources essential to protecting our national security," the letter adds.

Read the letter:

Go deeper

Biden signals openness to ending filibuster for voting rights legislation

President Biden participates in a CNN town hall at Baltimore Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Thursday at a CNN town hall he'd be willing to consider doing away with the filibuster in the Senate in a bid to protect voting rights and "and maybe more."

Why it matters: With an evenly split Senate, legislation requires at least 10 Republican votes making it highly unlikely any new voting rights bill would pass with the filibuster in tact.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
44 mins ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.

How Hertz is fighting to stay relevant

A Hertz car rental counter in the Miami International Airport. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the span of less than a week, Hertz has made three big strategic moves intended to keep the car rental giant from fading into oblivion.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing and other mobility innovations are rapidly changing the way people get from A to B, posing an existential threat to traditional car rental services.