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Yellen delivers in-person warning to US House members on debt ceiling

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference as G20 finance leaders gathered on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, February 23, 2023. REUTERS/Samuel Rajkumar

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday to raise the federal debt ceiling without conditions, warning that a default on U.S. debt would cause an “economic and financial catastrophe.”

Yellen, in budget testimony before the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, said that failure to increase the $31.4 trillion borrowing cap would threaten the economic progress that the United States has made since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my assessment – and that of economists across the board – a default on our debt would trigger an economic and financial catastrophe,” Yellen said in prepared remarks. “I urge all members of Congress to come together to address the debt limit – without conditions and without waiting until the last minute.

Some Republicans have demanded spending concessions from U.S. President Joe Biden in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Yellen has refused to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, arguing that it is about making good on Congress’ past spending decisions.

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