White House warns failing to raise debt limit will threaten US national security, military families

EXCLUSIVE: The White House is warning that a failure to raise the debt limit would threaten U.S. national security and have broad “implications” for military families.

Fox News obtained a White House memo Wednesday laying out the “consequences of default” on national security and for military families.

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“At a time when liberal democracies are being challenged to deliver for their people, by autocracies abroad, now is not the time to undermine the credibility of the U.S.’s ability to govern,” the White House memo said. “If the U.S. defaults on its obligations, the ripple effects will have implications for our national security and military families.”

The White House memo warned that if the U.S. defaults and can no longer pay its obligations, it could “undermine our national security and international credibility.”

“The federal government pays the salaries of 2.1 million military members each year. If the U.S. defaults, salary payments could be halted, or not be paid at all,” the White House warned.

“Federal contractors who operate military bases and service military technologies and equipment could have their payments delayed, jeopardizing their operations,” the White House continued.

“A default risks undermining the credibility of the United States abroad, both as the global reserve currency and as an economic and national security partner,” the White House added.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also warned that a U.S. default “would undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests.” 

“It would also seriously harm our service members and their families because, as Secretary, I would have no authority or ability to ensure that our service members, civilians, or contractors would be paid in full or on time,” Austin said in a statement Wednesday, adding that “our service members and Department of Defense civilians live up to their commitments.” 

“My hope is that, as a nation, we will come together to ensure we meet our obligations to them, without delay or disruption,” Austin said.

The White House memo comes as the Senate is expected to tee up the latest confrontation over the debt ceiling. The Senate Wednesday afternoon is expected to begin and conclude a procedural vote on an effort to break filibuster on a bill to suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022. That vote needs 60 yeas to wrap up debate and move onto final passage.

But Republicans are filibustering any hike or suspension of the debt ceiling, and will not provide the additional ten votes required to hit the 60 vote threshold — if all 50 Democrats vote yes to end debate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hasn’t committed to a ‘Plan B’ for how Democrats will raise the debt ceiling without GOP help. Senate Democrats could use budget reconciliation to do it but Schumer, at this point, has dismissed the idea.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday warned the president that Republicans won’t help Democrats raise the debt ceiling and told him he should convince members of Congress from his party to raise the debt ceiling along party lines. 

“Since mid-July, Republicans have clearly stated that Democrats will need to raise the debt limit on their own. All year, your party has chosen to pursue staggering, ‘transformational’ spending through unprecedented use of the party-line reconciliation process,” McConnell said. “I have relayed this reality to your Democratic lieutenants for two and a half months.”

McConnell added: “Your Democratic majorities have not plan of their own to avoid default… I respectfully submit that it is time for your to engage directly with Congressional Democrats on this matter.” 

President Biden, on Monday, slammed Senate Republicans as “reckless and dangerous.” 

“Raising the debt limit comes down to paying what we already owe, what has already been acquired,” Biden said, noting it is not for “anything new.” 

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“The United States is a nation that pays its bills and always has, form its inception,” Biden said. “We have never defaulted.” 

Bien said that “what we pay for keeps us a great nation,” noting that raising the debt ceiling helps to continue funding social security for seniors, salaries for U.S. military, benefits for veterans, and more. 

“We’re able to borrow because we always pay our debt. That is America. That is who we are,” he said. “It is called full faith in credit in the United States.” 

Biden argued that raising the debt limit “is usually a bipartisan undertaking, and it should be.” 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that failing to raise the debt ceiling before the Oct. 18 deadline would send the government into default for the first time in history. Yellen said it would have disastrous consequences that could plunge the country into another recession and destabilize global markets.

The limit on federal borrowing currently stands at $24.8 trillion. 

During the Trump administration, the debt limit was suspended three separate times, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The most recent suspension was passed on a bipartisan basis in 2019 — it expired in June 2021. 

Failure to raise or suspend the debt ceiling could also lead to delays in Social Security and child tax credit checks this October. Yellen said that about 50 million seniors would be impacted, alongside millions of American families who rely on the child tax credit to make ends meet. Federal employees may also experience paycheck delays.

Raising or suspending the debt limit allows the federal government to pay obligations already incurred. It does not authorize new spending. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Tyler Olson contributed to this report. 

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