WASHINGTON−Like dueling pianos, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy simultaneously stood in front of microphones Tuesday evening − with one at the White House and the other at the Capitol − to blame each other and their opposing political parties for why the country could run out of money to pay its bills for the first time in U.S. history.
While they made their jabs, the health and financial security of millions of Americans across the country remained at risk. Though getting Republicans and Democrats to agree on financial aid is never a simple task, the side effect of the standoff is clear: U.S. residents who rely on government payments for their salaries, retirement money, food assistance, medical care and more would lose those benefits if the nation doesn't have money to cover its obligations.
The Tuesday news conferences didn't solve that problem. They did little more than prove Biden, McCarthy and other top congressional leaders made little progress during their Oval Office meeting that afternoon. McCarthy said there was no movement toward a solution and the only real sign of progress was they met for the first time in 97 days.
They met to rev up negotiations and spare the nation from defaulting on its obligations − something that has never happened in America but could happen this year as soon as June 1, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
The meeting:Biden, McCarthy fail to reach a debt ceiling deal in Oval Office meeting as default looms
Social Security payments at risk in July
If the country's top leaders don't reach an agreement to raise the nation's borrowing limit and her predictions come true, it would lead to catastrophic and devastating effects across the country, Yellen, Treasury secretaries before her and multiple economists agree.
One of the biggest impacts would be to Social Security. The program, which millions of Americans rely on for money in retirement, is often seen by politicians as the untouchable vanguard of government aid, but it has been the subject of fierce debate between Republicans and Democrats in the 118th Congress. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by the projected default date in June, the July Social Security benefits would be in jeopardy.
With three weeks until June 1 − during which both chambers of Congress are in session for just 10 days − Yellen has been emphasizing the "economic calamity" that could result without a debt limit increase.
"Whether it's defaulting on interest payments that are due on the debt or payments due for Social Security recipients or to Medicare providers, we would simply not have enough cash to meet all of our obligations," she said Sunday on ABC's "This Week.""And it's widely agreed that financial and economic chaos would ensue."
What to know:Planning for retirement? 3 harsh Social Security truths to consider.
Are Social Security benefits really at risk in default?
Some economists have said Social Security payments might be delayed or disrupted at most, and some have said they wouldn't be impacted at all.
Despite some talk on Capitol Hill that the government could or would somehow prioritize payments in a default so seniors and veterans are taken care of, Yellen has said there is no plan for that.
Also, because the government has never defaulted on its obligations, there's no clear roadmap for what would happen and U.S. systems have not been tested operationally in a scenario like that.
During a Senate Appropriations hearing on March 22, Yellen said her job as Treasury secretary is to make sure all the bills are paid, not to decide which bills are more important than others.
"Prioritization is default by another name," she said. "Not paying any of our bills is default. When you think about the pain that it would cause to Social Security recipients, to food stamp recipients, to vendors who have supplied services, to the government who have their own payrolls to meet, to be told they are not going to be paid, the government is not going to honor those bills. That’s a default."
The government pays millions of bills a day and its payment systems are set up to pay all the government’s bills when they come due. "They are not setup to divide payments into different types as a general matter," Yellen said.
"For many agencies, payments of all different types are mixed together in ways that couldn’t be disentangled," she added.
Poll:As Social Security and Medicare face shortfalls, most Americans oppose cutting their benefits
When are Biden and McCarthy meeting again about the debt ceiling?
Top congressional aides will continue to meet with White House officials through the week, and Biden and McCarthy are set to meet again Friday.
Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without federal spending cuts in exchange. Democrats say the nation's borrowing limit should be raised without conditions and federal spending negotiations should happen separately.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who represent states with the most Social Security recipients, such as McCarthy's home state of California, are raising concerns and blasting the House GOP proposal that passed April 26 and would raise the debt ceiling while cutting trillions in federal spending.
What Democrats are telling USA TODAY
About 66 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, federal data shows. Payments are made not only to people of retirement age, but also millions of children and others with severe disabilities.
McCarthy's home state of California has the most Social Security recipients in the country, with more than 6 million residents receiving the benefit, according to federal data. It is also the state with the highest population. More than 15 million people there receive Medicaid and about 4.5 million receive Medicare − the most of any state.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told USA TODAY Republicans are using a potential default as leverage to try and force cuts "their members would never actually vote for as standalone bills because of the public backlash they would face."
Cuts to critical programs like food assistance, Medicaid and more "would be devastating to the people in my district and across the country who rely on these programs to get by," he said. "We have to first pay our bills and then we can rationally discuss deficit reduction."
Impact:'I don't have anything in my refrigerator': GOP debt ceiling plan would cut SNAP benefits
Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians receive Social Security benefits. Nearly 3 million are on Medicare, and nearly 4 million are on Medicaid, according to federal data.
"If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, then Social Security and Medicare payments will be late. Veterans benefits will be impacted as well. The MAGA Republicans are jeopardizing the livelihoods of seniors and veterans with their antics," Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., told USA TODAY. He is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
Another Pennsylvania Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey, told USA TODAY in a statement, "Make no mistake: House Republicans are trying to take away health care for seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Avoiding default cannot and will not come at the expense of ripping health care coverage away from millions of Pennsylvanians. I will fight to protect Medicaid any way I have to."
In Illinois, more than 2 million people receive Social Security. More than 3 million receive Medicaid, and more than 2 million receive Medicare.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., described during floor remarks how a GOP debt plan would also impact other programs in Illinois: “The Republican proposal would force 13,000 children in our state to lose child care and preschool. It would strip food assistance from 55,000 women, infants, and children. Does that make any sense at all? And it would threaten medical care for more than 186,000 veterans in Illinois. Fifty thousand seniors would lose their meals on wheels in my state.”
What Republicans are telling USA TODAY
McCarthy on Tuesday said it was "a lie" that the GOP proposal would cut veterans' care, and he and other Republicans have recently blamed Biden and Democrats for any risk to Social Security. He maintained Tuesday that House Republicans "are the only ones in Washington who have passed a responsible debt limit increase that avoids default."
That sentiment was echoed by other Republicans on the Hill in the last week.
"The Biden administration might want to look in the mirror and realize they’re the ones threatening a default that would jeopardize these programs. Biden has House Republicans’ solution in front of him – the only bill passed that takes a default off the table and protects Social Security – but he’d rather bankrupt our nation than negotiate," House Majority Whip Tom Emmer's office told USA TODAY.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told USA TODAY in a statement:“President Biden has avoided negotiations on the debt ceiling for more than 90 days – his delay tactics have put our seniors directly in harms way. Republicans worked diligently to pass a plan that addresses our spending crisis and the debt limit, the president needs to take our plan seriously.”
Some Republican senators say they want to see more negotiations.
"I hope the president negotiates. He sold himself to the American people as a negotiator. So, what is negotiation? You’ve got to give and get," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told USA TODAY before Biden met with congressional leaders.
Capito said she hoped the meeting with the president would be more than a photo opportunity. "It better be substantive," she said. "He better come back with items that he thinks he could live with and that the House would pass."
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he was hoping for a compromise.
"We certainly want to raise the debt ceiling. At the same time we’d like to deal with the excessive spending and debt burden the country is facing, so let’s get them both dealt with," he said.
A deeper look:Joe Biden boxes Republicans into a corner on Social Security, Medicare with an eye on 2024
Millions of Americans rely on Social Security benefits but the ongoing debt limit fight could put those payments in jeopardy. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by the projected default date in June, July Social Security benefits could be delayed, USA Today reported.Is Social Security affected by the debt ceiling? ›
As debt ceiling negotiations continue, some officials are warning Social Security checks may be affected. Benefit checks may be delayed, which would cause financial hardship for individuals and families who rely on that money. Still, some policy experts say it is unlikely the standoff would come to that point.Why would my Social Security check be late? ›
Your payment might be late for a number of reasons, such as: You changed your bank or had a change of address and did not notify the SSA. The bank account used by the SSA to make your payment changed.What happens if debt ceiling is reached? ›
Potential repercussions of reaching the ceiling include a downgrade by credit rating agencies, increased borrowing costs for businesses and homeowners alike, and a dropoff in consumer confidence that could shock the United States' financial market and tip its economy—and the world's—into immediate recession.What happens if the debt limit isn't raised? ›
If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, the government can't borrow and might not be able to pay its bills (like bond interest) on time. That's called a default, and it's never happened before on this scale (though the U.S. got close in 2011).What debts can be taken from Social Security? ›
Section 459 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 659) permits Social Security to withhold current and continuing Social Security payments to enforce your legal obligation to pay child support, alimony, or restitution.Can debt collectors take your Social Security benefits? ›
407, 652(b), 659 and 662(f)) LEVY AND GARNISHMENT OF BENEFITS. Generally, Social Security benefits are exempt from execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or from the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.Did not receive Social Security direct deposit this month? ›
They may be experiencing a delay in posting your payment. If you still need to report a late, missing, or stolen Social Security payment, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office. We will review the case and if the payment is due, we will replace it.How long can Social Security be delayed? ›
Technically, indefinitely, but past a certain point, waiting to file won't do you much good. Social Security will likely provide a substantial amount of income for you during retirement, and as such, it's crucial to get as much money from it as possible.What day will Social Security checks be deposited this month? ›
The Social Security Administration typically sends out payments on the second, third and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Which day you receive your check depends on your birth date. If your birthday falls between the 1st and 10th of the month, your payment will be sent out on the second Wednesday of the month.
The amount is set by law and has been increased or suspended over the years to allow for the additional borrowing needed to finance the government's operations. On December 16, 2021, lawmakers raised the debt limit by $2.5 trillion to a total of $31.4 trillion.What is the debt limit deal? ›
The deal reached by President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy would suspend the nation's debt limit until January 2025. This would allow the government to keep borrowing money so it can pay its bills on time.What is the new U.S. debt ceiling? ›
Debt ceiling suspended until 2025
Currently it is $31.4tn (£25tn). This includes paying for federal employees, the military, Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest on the national debt and tax refunds.
Generally speaking, a good debt-to-income ratio is anything less than or equal to 36%. Meanwhile, any ratio above 43% is considered too high. The biggest piece of your DTI ratio pie is bound to be your monthly mortgage payment.What to do when you have too much debt and can't pay? ›
- Analyze your situation.
- Consider bankruptcy.
- Consider going to a credit counseling service.
- Prioritize the debt you need to pay.
- Talk to your credit card issuers.
- Pay off the debt with the higher interest first.
- Or – pay off smaller debts first.
If you are using too much of your available credit, or are late on payments, your credit score will decline. A lower credit score will make it harder to borrow or consolidate debt at a lower interest rate, and thus harder to pay off the debt that you have accumulated.Can credit card debt take your Social Security check? ›
Generally no, debt collectors can't take your Social Security or VA benefits directly out of your bank account or prepaid card. After a debt collector sues you for the debt and wins a judgment, it can get a court order for your bank or credit union to turn over money from your account or prepaid card.Can Social Security take your whole check for overpayment? ›
SSA can withhold all of your Social Security benefits to repay the overpayment. However, unless there is fraud involved, they will usually let you pay it back in smaller amounts. You will have to pay back at least $10.00 a month. SSA tries to get the money back within 3 years.Does Social Security check your bank account? ›
The Social Security Administration can only check your bank accounts if you have allowed them to do so. For those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA can check your bank account because they were given permission.How long before a debt is uncollectible? ›
Most states or jurisdictions have statutes of limitations between three and six years for debts, but some may be longer. This may also vary depending, for instance, on the: Type of debt. State where you live.
If you are struggling with debt and debt collectors, Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can help. As soon as you use the 11-word phrase “please cease and desist all calls and contact with me immediately” to stop the harassment, call us for a free consultation about what you can do to resolve your debt problems for good.Can Social Security be garnished for? ›
If you have any unpaid Federal taxes, the Internal Revenue Service can levy your Social Security benefits. Your benefits can also be garnished in order to collect unpaid child support and or alimony. Your benefits may also be garnished in response to Court Ordered Victims Restitution.How do I get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›
To acquire the full amount, you need to maximize your working life and begin collecting your check until age 70. Another way to maximize your check is by asking for a raise every two or three years. Moving companies throughout your career is another way to prove your worth, and generate more money.Will there be an increase in Social Security benefits in 2023? ›
Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will increase by 8.7% in 2023. This is the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) required by law. The increase will begin with benefits that Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2023.How much will Social Security pay in 2023? ›
The latest such increase, 8.7 percent, becomes effective January 2023. The monthly maximum Federal amounts for 2023 are $914 for an eligible individual, $1,371 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $458 for an essential person.Are Social Security checks affected by government shutdown? ›
Will I continue to receive my Social Security and SSI checks? During a government shutdown, recipients will continue to receive their Social Security and SSI checks. However, a shutdown suspends the issuance of Social Security cards.What is going on with Social Security payments? ›
With COLAs, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits keep pace with inflation. The latest COLA is 8.7 percent for Social Security benefits and SSI payments. Social Security benefits will increase by 8.7 percent beginning with the December 2022 benefits, which are payable in January 2023.Does Social Security not keep up with inflation? ›
Social Security recipients do not automatically receive a COLA increase every year. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), part of the U.S. Department of Labor.Will my Social Security increase because of inflation? ›
The change was enacted by legislation that ties COLAs to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). The change means that inflation no longer drains value from Social Security benefits.