Biden tasks group to explore ways to prevent future debt-limit standoffs

Less than two months after avoiding a government default, President Joe Biden has tasked a working group to “explore all legal and policy options” to avoid a future debt-limit crisis.

The Debt Ceiling Working Group, co-chaired by White House Counsel Stuart Delery and National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard, will include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and Council of Economic Advisers, the White House said in a statement Thursday. No prominent Republican officials were named to the group.

The group’s aim is to analyze the “economic and financial harms associated with debt-ceiling brinkmanship,” as well as lessons and legal questions regarding the debt ceiling. It will also study “Constitution-based” actions Congress could take to “make the risk of default a thing of the past.”

“Now that the latest debt-ceiling crisis is behind us, it is necessary to explore all legal and policy options to prevent Congress from ever again holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States,” the White House said.

It was unclear if that could include actions such as invoking the 14th Amendment, which Biden said he believed had the authority to do but would have surely faced legal challenges from Republicans.

In early June, Biden signed bipartisan legislation to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending, following a long standoff with House Republicans and avoiding an unprecedented default that experts said could have been catastrophic to the economy. “This cannot be normalized as the way we do business in Washington,” Yellen told Congress later in June.

At its first meeting, the group will consult with legal scholars and economics experts, and will meet with other experts and members of Congress at future meetings, according to the White House.

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