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Minnesota lawmakers point fingers as debt ceiling deadline nears

WASHINGTON — The risk of default is pushing some Minnesota lawmakers to blame the opposing party as Congress faces a shrinking window to act.

“What is Joe Biden and his administration willing to give to solve the debt ceiling crisis and put this country on a better fiscal path?” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Republican from Minnesota, said at a press conference this week. “If he can’t answer the question, then again, it’s Joe Biden and the Democrats who will have to explain to every American why they’ve decided to default for the first time in this nation’s history.”

The United States hit the debt ceiling in January and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday that the Treasury may be “unable to pay all government bills” as soon as June 1.

Democrats wanted to pass a clean bill raising the debt ceiling, but House Republicans instead proposed an increase along with other changes fiercely opposed by the left. Recent negotiations between the White House and McCarthy’s team don’t seem poised for an imminent breakthrough.

“It doesn’t look like a negotiation,” said Democratic U.S. Senator Tina Smith. “It looks like extortion.”

With Republicans in control of the US House and Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House, any final deal would require significant bipartisan support. It could be a tough sell for McCarthy, who only narrowly became president and is trying to keep his party’s various factions happy.

“I don’t think President McCarthy wants a flaw attached to his legacy,” said Democratic U.S. Representative Dean Phillips.

US Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement that “a default would be devastating to our economy” and that “negotiations must continue to intensify and succeed.”

“Default is completely avoidable. We have come together 78 times before under Republican and Democratic presidents to avoid default – and this time should be no different,” Klobuchar said.

Asked on Tuesday whether the country would default, U.S. GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach said, “I think they’re going to come to an agreement.”

“It just takes a little time,” she said.

House Republicans narrowly passed a bill in April to raise the debt ceiling, but they tied the move to a major cut in future spending and other conservative priorities. Every Minnesota Republican in Congress voted for the package, while all four state House Democrats opposed it.

Republican demands have prompted some Democrats to push for the president to be ready to invoke the 14th amendment. Within the Minnesota delegation, Smith and Rep. Ilhan Omar have been at the forefront of publicly urging Biden to be ready to do just that.

In a letter signed by Omar and more than 60 other House progressives, lawmakers encouraged Biden to invoke the amendment, “which specifically states that” the validity of US public debt, authorized by law, including including debts incurred … shall not be questioned,” to make federal payments on time. »

Republicans have fired this tactic. The president turning to the 14th Amendment would likely mean legal challenges, and the White House seems unwilling to rely on it in this situation.

“It’s not new spending,” said Paul Schiff Berman, a law professor at George Washington University. “These are expenditures that the United States government is already obligated to spend under previous laws. So it’s foolish to think that the United States government would incur debts and then refuse to pay them, and that’s arguably exactly what the 14th Amendment was all about.”

Time is running out, it remains to be seen if an agreement can be reached.

“I wish the president had started negotiating 100 days ago,” U.S. GOP Rep. Pete Stauber said Tuesday. “He knew it was coming.”

And the partisan divide within Minnesota’s own delegation showed the tensions surrounding the negotiations.

“What Republicans are doing right now is playing stupid games,” Omar said at a press conference Wednesday.

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