WASHINGTON — The risk of a default has some Minnesota lawmakers blaming the opposing party as Congress faces a dwindling window to take action.
"What is Joe Biden and his administration willing to give to provide solutions to the debt ceiling crisis and put this country on a better financial path?" House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, said during a news conference this week. "If he can't answer the question, again, it is Joe Biden and the Democrats who will have to explain to every American why they decided to default for the first time in this nation's history."
The U.S. hit the debt limit in January, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a letter Monday that the Treasury could be "unable to pay all the government's bills" as soon as June 1.
Democrats wanted to pass a clean bill raising the debt ceiling, but House Republicans instead packaged an increase with other changes fiercely opposed by the left. Recent negotiations between the White House and McCarthy's team don't appear primed for an imminent breakthrough.
"This doesn't feel like a negotiation," Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said. "It feels like extortion."
With Republicans in control of the U.S. House and Democrats in charge of the Senate and White House, any final deal would need sizable bipartisan support. That could be a difficult sell for McCarthy, who only narrowly became speaker and is trying to keep the different factions in his party happy.
"I don't think Speaker McCarthy wants a default attached to his legacy," Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement that "a default would be devastating to our economy" and that "the negotiations must continue to ramp up and be successful."
"Default is completely avoidable. We have come together 78 times before under both Republican and Democratic presidents to avoid a default — and this time should be no different," Klobuchar said.
Asked Tuesday about whether the country would default, GOP U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach said, "I think they're going to come to a deal."
"Just takes a little time," she said.
House Republicans narrowly passed a bill in April to increase the debt ceiling, but they paired the move with major curtailing of future spending and other conservative priorities. Every Minnesota Republican in Congress voted for the package, while the state's four House Democrats were opposed.
Republicans' demands have driven some Democrats to push for the president to be prepared to invoke the 14th Amendment. Within Minnesota's delegation, Smith and Rep. Ilhan Omar have been at the forefront of publicly urging Biden to be ready to do so.
In a letter signed by Omar and more than 60 other House progressives, the lawmakers encouraged Biden to invoke the amendment, "which specifically states that 'the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred … shall not be questioned,' to make federal payments on time."
Republicans have dismissed that tactic. The president turning to the 14th Amendment would likely mean legal challenges, and the White House doesn't appear willing to rely on it in this situation.
"This is not new spending," said Paul Schiff Berman, a law professor at George Washington University. "This is spending that the United States government is already obligated to spend under previous laws. So it's crazy to think that the U.S. government would incur debts and then refuse to pay them, and arguably that is exactly what the 14th Amendment was addressed to."
With time short, it remains to be seen if a deal can be reached.
"I wish the president would have started negotiating 100 days ago," GOP U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber said Tuesday. "He knew this was coming."
And the partisan divide within Minnesota's own delegation showed the tensions around the negotiations.
"What Republicans are doing right now is playing stupid games," Omar said during a Wednesday news conference.