More than 7,800 people in the East Bay could lose their jobs, nearly 70,000 more could see their Social Security payments jeopardized, and 259,000 people could lose their health benefits if the federal government does not raise the debt ceiling, says East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).
"This is a very serious issue," Lee told KTVU in an interview on Friday.
Congress is currently holding negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on its loans. The debt ceiling restricts the federal government’s ability to borrow money and the impact of not raising the limit expands beyond just the Easy Bay, it could cause a major disruption to the global economy as well.
Republicans are demanding any increase to the debt ceiling to be coupled with spending cuts and other cost saving measures.
It’s something Lee says didn’t happen under the Trump administration when the ceiling was raised without much of a fight.
"To hold the American people hostage is just wrong, and we are going to continue to move forward and try to find ways to make sure we pay our bills," she said.
This comes ahead of planned talks between President Biden and the top Congressional leaders of both parties at the White House next week. Biden said he will not support any attempt to link raising the debt ceiling to spending cuts and Lee told KTVU that the president should stay firm in his demands for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
"These are political games that Kevin McCarthy and the MAGA Republicans are playing," Lee said. "McCarthy’s district, his constituents are going to lose just as much as my constituents will."
Lee added that the negotiations need to extend beyond the D.C. arena into the districts of the politicians where residents will be affected by the decision. If it was up to her, she would direct messaging to the people of McCarthy’s district on how they could be hurt by a government shut down.
"We need to communicate better how they’re going to be hurt by the decisions and the lack of real commitment to making their lives better," Lee said. "People need to weigh in with the Republicans right away. This is a democracy, so I think the public right now needs to weigh in in these Republican districts and tell them to pay our bills and do not default on this debt."
In an April 26 statement, McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said the Democrats "need to do their job," and come to the negotiating table.
"The president can no longer ignore by not negotiating," McCarthy said. "Sen. [Charles] Schumer (D-New York), if he thinks he's got a plan, put it on the floor, see if you can pass it, and then we can go to conference. But now, the president can no longer put this economy in jeopardy. We've lifted the debt limit, we've sent it to the Senate, we've done our job."
The national debt currently sits at $31.38 trillion.