Social Security recipients, seniors and people with disabilities will likely be the first groups directly affected if House Republicans’ hostage taking causes the U.S. to be unable to pay its obligations, according to an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center and reporting by the Washington Post.
Roughly $98 billion worth of benefits — including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and military and civil retirement payments — are scheduled to go out in the first two days of June. Social Security benefits are distributed four times a month, but the first round of payments goes to retirees older than 88 years as well as people with disabilities and seniors with especially low incomes and less than $2,000 in assets, who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), according to the Washington Post.
That means if the federal government can’t make those payments scheduled for June 1 and 2, then Americans who rely most on government help to get by — the oldest and the poorest Social Security recipients — will suffer.
“There’s no fallback if these checks are late,” Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Washington Post. “These are people who are literally not allowed to have emergency savings.”
With the prospect of default and the U.S. Treasury unable to make payments just a week away, House Republicans and the White House have a ticking clock to find some way to avoid leaving thousands of people with nothing to rely on.
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a renewed warning to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other congressional leaders, emphasizing that the U.S. will likely default on its debts and obligations on June 1 unless Congress acts.
The Bipartisan Policy Center report also put default around the same time, but within a slightly expanded range. “BPC projects that the X Date will most likely occur between early June and early August of 2023, with heightened risk of falling between June 2 to June 13,” the analysis said.
Some in House Republican leadership sounded confident notes Wednesday, claiming they are drawing closer to clinching a deal with the White House to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a list of demands they have changed and added to as they go.
Even if an agreement between the White House and McCarthy’s negotiating team were to be struck, the process of taking an agreement to a floor vote could take days. That means that, even in a best case scenario, Congress might not be able to lift the debt limit until after the earliest x date projections.
If Yellen’s prediction “that Treasury will no longer be able to satisfy all of the government’s obligations if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by early June, and potentially as early as June 1,” then the most vulnerable of the American people will be caught in the crossfire.