Biden accuses GOP of playing ‘Russian roulette’ with economy in debt ceiling standoff

A high stakes standoff between President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans is unfolding in Washington over the country's debt limit. It comes just two weeks before the United States is set to default on its debt, which could trigger damaging economic consequences for the entire country. Biden on Monday called Republicans' position "dangerous." Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff with more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A high-stakes standoff between the president and Senate Republicans is unfolding in Washington over the country's debt limit.

    It comes just two weeks before the United States is set to default on its debt, which could trigger damaging economic consequences for the entire country.

    Today, President Biden called congressional Republicans' position — quote — "dangerous."

    For more, I'm joined by our Yamiche Alcindor, our White House correspondent.

    So Yamiche, we heard today both from the president and from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. Where does everything stand?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, both sides are dug in as it relates to their stances on the debt ceiling. And it's unclear which side will blink in this standoff.

    Now, President Biden took to the White House podium today. And he delivered pointed remarks. He accused Republicans of playing — quote — "Russian roulette" with the U.S. economy. He said that the debt ceiling is not about new spending. He said that this is about whether or not the U.S. will be able to pay its bills.

    Here's part of what the president had to say.

  • President Joe Biden:

    Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job. They're threatening to use the power, their power, to prevent us from doing our job, saving the economy from a catastrophic event.

    I think, quite frankly, it's hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now, President Biden also said that it is wrong for Republicans to link the debt ceiling limit and raising the debt limit with his infrastructure plans, though the GOP has said, if Democrats can pass the infrastructure plan, that $3.5 trillion plan, with only Democratic support, that they should also be able to raise the debt ceiling that way.

    The president has pushed back on that, pushed back on the idea that it should be done through reconciliation. He also said that Republicans essentially were in the wrong here because this has been a bipartisan endeavor to raise the debt ceiling.

    But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell he took to the Senate floor after the president spoke. Here's what McConnell had to say.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

    The majority doesn't need our votes. They just want a partisan — they just want a bipartisan shortcut around procedural hurdles they can actually clear on their own.

    And they want that shortcut so they can pivot right back partisan spending as fast as possible.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now, President Biden said that Republicans do not need to give their votes. He said all they need to do is make sure not to filibuster.

    But there is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that he is essentially going to stand in the way of Democrats trying to raise the debt ceiling. It's also important that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he wrote a letter to President Biden today saying that this is really the Democrats' problem to fix.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just in a word, Yamiche, the last time we looked, there was also disagreement among Democrats over two huge pieces of legislation, reconciliation and this larger social spending. Any movement on that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is still trying to get his party on the same page.

    The president today blamed essentially Senate — Senators Manchin and Sinema, saying that they were the two Democrats that he couldn't get to really back his plans as of yet. But the president did have a meeting with progressives today, saying that they need to come down on that $3.5 trillion price tag for the bipartisan infrastructure bill — I should say, rather, for the Democratic-backed infrastructure bill.

    So we will have to see where those numbers end up. I'm hearing that it's going to be around $2 trillion. But Senate minority leader — Senate Majority Leader, rather, Chuck Schumer says he wants to get all of this done by the end of October. So we will have to see where this ends.

    But they're already eying the end of the month as trying to get this done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Yamiche Alcindor following these two major stories.

    Thank you, Yamiche.

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