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White House open to a short-term debt limit fix, OMB director says

<i>Alex Wong/Getty Images</i><br/>Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young
Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young

By Betsy Klein, CNN

The White House on Thursday expressed openness to a short-term fix to the debt ceiling as the US barrels toward a June default with the full faith and credit of the US government in the balance.

“Congressional leaders are going to have to figure out a way to do this. Of course, I’m sure there’ll be conversations about the length. You saw the length in the congressional Republicans’ bill that would take us into this situation again this time next year,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told reporters Thursday at the White House.

“I’m sure one of the things on the table we will have to work through is how long? I’m not going to take anything off the table. The important thing to do is to make sure we do this and leave the drama behind regardless of what length we end up in,” she added.

Asked whether President Joe Biden would sign a bill that would raise the debt limit for a shorter period of time, Young indicated it would be a positive sign for the negotiations, but said they are not there yet.

“At least that part of the conversation about length — I would love to be in that part of the conversation. Because we’re at least in the positive: default is off the table. So I’m happy when we get to that part of the conversation. We’re not there yet. And the idea is to put brinksmanship to bed and get to talking on making sure we avoid default. And once we’re talking about timeframe, that means we’re at least on the right side of this debate,” she said.

Young’s comments come ahead of a high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders at the White House set for Tuesday. Republicans have repeatedly advocated for spending cuts tied to the debt ceiling while the White House has emphatically maintained it will not negotiate on the matter.

The White House later sought to clarify Young’s comments, telling CNN that she was not explicitly making an endorsement of a short-term increase.

A White House official said Friday that Young “wasn’t endorsing a short-term increase, she was making clear we welcome a conversation about how long to increase the debt ceiling instead of whether to increase it.”

And later Friday, the official offered a statement more strongly walking back any openness to a short-term fix: “We are not weighing a short-term extension. We are focused on removing the threat of default which will erase our economic progress,” a White House official told CNN nearly 24 hours after Young appeared in the briefing room.

Pressed on whether the president could invoke the 14th Amendment, which gives a president an unprecedentedly expansive view of executive power with regard to raising the debt ceiling, she reiterated: “It is Congress’ duty to ensure we don’t default.”

Asked once more, she said: “We continue to have the position that this is Congress’ duty to do.”

Young warned against a default, which she said is both “catastrophic” for the economy but would also “(set) us on a road to be ineffective in the appropriations process.”

The White House has warned against dire and devastating effects the economy should the US default, including the possibility of an “immediate, sharp recession” and the loss of up to 8 million jobs.

“Of course we’re concerned. We’re calling on the reasonable people in this town to do the right thing,” Young said Thursday.

She continued, “Congress can put a bill on the floor tomorrow, avoid default. The DC drama, the political brinksmanship. That’s what that is. Nothing is preventing Congress from moving to avoid default. And they need to do that, whether it’s tomorrow or next week.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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