The checks – about 70 million of them – might not be in the mail.
That’s the warning President Barack Obama gave Tuesday for Americans receiving Social Security benefits if Congress fails to agree on raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2.
“I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on Aug. 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue,” Obama told CBS News.
“There may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” he said, adding that veterans’ checks and disability benefits also could be affected.
The rhetoric has intensified as Obama and top lawmakers continued to meet Tuesday.
“I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office a real solution is probably unattainable,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
McConnell proposed giving Obama unilateral power to boost the government’s borrowing authority, in increments, by up to $2.4 trillion, if the president specified spending cuts of equal amounts. Congress would not have to approve the cuts before the debt-limit increase. There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Failure to seal a deal could spook investors, causing U.S. interest rates to surge and stock prices to plummet, and could put the U.S. at risk of another recession, said Treasury officials and economists.
Obama’s warning that senior citizens – an active voting group – could suffer if a deal is not reached might give lawmakers a nudge ahead of 2012 elections.
Seniors punished Democrats last year for including Medicare cuts in their healthcare package and then turned on Republicans in a special New York election this year over a Republican plan to overhaul the healthcare program for the elderly.