US President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House on October 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Biden signs bill lifting US debt limit

The Associated Press

US President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House on October 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

With just two days to spare President Joe Biden signed legislation on Saturday that lifts the nation’s debt ceiling, averting an unprecedented default on the federal government’s debt.

The White House announced the signing, done in private at the White House, in an emailed statement in which Biden thanked congressional leaders for their partnership.

The Treasury Department had warned that the country would start running short of cash to pay all of its bills on Monday, which would have sent shockwaves through the US and global economies.

Republicans refused to raise the country’s borrowing limit unless Democrats agreed to cut spending, leading to a standoff that was not resolved until weeks of intense negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The final agreement, passed by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday, suspends the debt limit until 2025 — after the next presidential election — and restricts government spending. It gives lawmakers budget targets for the next two years in hopes of assuring fiscal stability as the political season heats up.

Raising the nation’s debt limit, now at $31.4 trillion, will ensure that the government can borrow to pay debts already incurred.

“Passing this budget agreement was critical. The stakes could not have been higher,” Biden said from the Oval Office on Friday evening. “Nothing would have been more catastrophic,” he said, than defaulting on the country’s debt.

“No one got everything they wanted but the American people got what they needed,” Biden said, highlighting the “compromise and consensus” in the deal. “We averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse.”

Biden used the opportunity to itemize the achievements of his first term as he runs for reelection, including support for high-tech manufacturing, infrastructure investments and financial incentives for fighting climate change. He also highlighted ways he blunted Republican efforts to roll back his agenda and achieve deeper cuts.

“We’re cutting spending and bringing deficits down at the same time,” Biden said. “We’re protecting important priorities from Social Security to Medicare to Medicaid to veterans to our transformational investments in infrastructure and clean energy.”

Even as he pledged to continue working with Republicans, Biden also drew contrasts with the opposing party, particularly when it comes to raising taxes on the wealthy, something the Democratic president has sought.

It’s something he suggested may need to wait until a second term.

“I’m going to be coming back,” he said. “With your help, I’m going to win.”

Biden’s remarks were the most detailed comments from the Democratic president on the compromise he and his staff negotiated. He largely remained quiet publicly during the high-stakes talks, a decision that frustrated some members of his party but was intended to give space for both sides to reach a deal and for lawmakers to vote it to his desk.

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