GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation

GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Republicans has invited Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenMissed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Fed chief holds firm amid inflation concerns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE to brief them at a private lunch meeting on the looming expiration of the federal debt ceiling on July 31 and on signs of rapidly rising inflation, which has driven up the cost of goods around the nation.

GOP senators want to know for how long the Treasury Department will be able to use “extraordinary measures” to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt obligations after the debt ceiling expires this month and more generally her view of the consequences of rising inflation and the mounting federal debt.

“The United States is once again approaching a ‘fiscal cliff.’ In a time of economic volatility, rising inflation, and unprecedented government spending, Congress must consider how best to respond to the reimposition of the debt limit and how to adequately appropriate for and fund the priorities of government,” they wrote in a letter dated July 14.

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Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet House GOP stages mask mandate protest 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (Utah) was the lead signatory on the letter along with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who has been sounding the alarm over inflation within the Senate GOP conference for months.

They invited Yellen to speak to the entire Senate Republican Conference at the weekly Steering Committee lunch, which is closed to the press. The private setting would allow Yellen to explain the fiscal implications of the approaching debt ceiling deadline without the televised theatrics that often accompany public hearings.

“Congress will have to address these matters in short order, and with the approaching July 31st expiration of the debt ceiling, we feel that more information is required with regard to the state of the federal government’s daily rate of spending and what extraordinary measures are available to the Treasury to continue borrowing,” the senators wrote.

Lee often invites special guests to discuss relevant policy topics at the weekly Steering Committee lunches.

The other signatories were Sens. Mike BraunMichael BraunBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet CDC backtracks with new mask guidance GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation MORE (R-Ind.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal Break glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins MORE (R-Fla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Trump urged DOJ officials to call election corrupt 'and leave the rest to me' Chuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism MORE (R-Wis.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (R-Texas), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden's misinformation crackdown spotlights partisan divide on content reform MORE (R-Tenn.), Jim RischJim Elroy RischTracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Idaho), Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisFormer Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi dies after bicycle accident Former Sen. Mike Enzi hospitalized after serious bicycle accident Republicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games MORE (R-Wyo.) and John CornynJohn CornynBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE (R-Texas.).

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The letter was sent a day after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the consumer price index rose 5.4 percent compared to June of 2020 and by 0.9 percent compared to May, nearly double what economists were expecting.

Rising prices are a growing concern on both sides of the aisle.

Centrist Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) brought up inflation at a lunch meeting with President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE Wednesday.

“In West Virginia ... people are paying much higher gas prices, they’re paying [higher] food prices,” Manchin told reporters after the lunch. “Every type of product and goods has gone up considerably.”

The Republican senators have asked Yellen to address several topics.

They want to know what the Treasury Department’s existing authorities are to implement extraordinary measures to continue making payments on federal obligations.

They also want to know whether unobligated pandemic relief funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that passed in March and prior relief bills are available to use for extraordinary measures.

And perhaps most importantly, the GOP lawmakers want to know how long extraordinary measures can be employed and at what time they “will no longer suffice.”

More generally, they’re asking for Yellen’s outlook on inflation in the coming months and years and her thoughts on “the rising national debt and the cost of servicing the debt should interest rates rise.”

The senators noted that Yellen’s views are especially valuable given her previous service as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, a position she held from 2014 to 2018.

“Your insight on inflation future demand trends and tools available to Congress would be important in calibrating our legislative outlook,” they wrote. 

Read the letter below.