U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that Republicans don't really want to lower the nation's debt as long as they cling to Trump-era tax breaks for the wealthy. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday detailed what she called the "real stakes" of an "unprecedented" default amid the ongoing debate over the country's debt ceiling.
Harris, who made her remarks during a phone-in briefing, accused Republican lawmakers of threatening to cause the United States to default on paying its debt.
"Default would be unprecedented. It has never happened before," she said.
Harris chided Republicans for holding back the debt ceiling debate, saying the GOP does not really care about lowering the nation's debt.
"If they really cared about lowering our debt, they would not also fight to protect trillions of dollars in Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations, tax cuts that would add three and a half trillion dollars," Harris said.
Harris said that a default "could trigger a recession" and stop military paychecks, as well as causing an increase in interest rates "for years to come."
"Credit card payments would go up and small business loans would be more expensive," Harris said.
Harris also said that a default could affect 401K accounts, causing a financial hit in which some people could lose "over $20,000 hard-earned dollars."
The vice president noted that prices in the stock market fell almost 20% in 2011 when the nation came close to a default and "millions of people lost money out of their retirement accounts."
Her comments came as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham similarly warned that the debt ceiling negotiations could have a "chilling effect" on the economic growth of states across the nation.
Grisham also pointed to GOP efforts to undo investments into clean energy championed by the Biden administration and her state, according to Politico.
"When someone's trying to take the wind out of your sails because you are moving that sail up and clipping along the ocean, you've done something right," said Grisham, a Democrat.
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., wrote a letter to the White House with other Democratic lawmakers urging President Joe Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to sidestep the debate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to formerly enslaved people when it was enacted in 1868, also includes a section that experts say empowers the president to sidestep Congress to pay the national debt.
"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned," the 14th Amendment reads.
In Fetterman's letter, the Democratic lawmaker called the GOP debt ceiling negotiation a "sad charade" and "exactly what's wrong with Washington."
"We're playing with fire and the livelihoods of millions just for the GOP to try and turn the screws on hungry Americans," the letter reads. "This is the whole reason why the 14th Amendment exists, and we need to be prepared to use it."
Biden, however, expressed optimism Wednesday that his administration would be able to break the impasse with the GOP after he had "productive" meetings with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and others.
"Everyone came to the meeting in good faith," he said. "Every leader in the room understands the consequences if we fail to pay our bills."