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 YellenWhite House touts Nobel economists' support for Biden agenda Joe Manchin is wrong — we can't afford not to invest in our children The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? 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 LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough 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 BraunRepublicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory Earmarks, the swamp's favorite tool, return to Washington Senate in talks to quickly pass infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ind.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Fla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges MORE (R-Wis.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (R-Texas), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI MORE (R-Tenn.), Jim RischJim Elroy RischLobbying world Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Colorado River cutbacks set stage for decade of drought politics MORE (R-Idaho), Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Crypto debate set to return in force Crypto industry seeks to build momentum after losing Senate fight MORE (R-Wyo.) and John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime 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 ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-W.Va.) brought up inflation at a lunch meeting with President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes 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.