In a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy and other top lawmakers on Monday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to "act as soon as possible", warning that the US risks being unable to pay its debts "as early as June 1".
"The United States is not a deadbeat nation; we pay our bills," US President Joe Biden said in advance of the crucial talks with congressional leaders on Tuesday which are aimed at securing an agreement on raising the country's debt ceiling. But although McCarthy said he wants "a responsible, sensible debt ceiling that puts us on an economic path to make America stronger", the two parties have divergent views on how the money should be spent and are so engrossed in their own political tussle that even if they do manage to come up with a compromise, it is sure to be a bruising battle.
The House Republican majority has said they will not raise the limit further without a compromise on the federal government's budget and spending which President Biden has rejected, saying the ceiling should be raised without strings attached and it will talk about budgetary plans after the debt limit is raised.
According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, if the US defaults on its debts for the first time ever, "the self-inflicted economic ruin of doing so would be catastrophic", as "financial markets would lose faith in the United States, the dollar would weaken, and stocks would fall".
Yet that catastrophe is looming ever larger as both the ruling Democrats and the Republicans are holding tight to their own standpoint.
For both parties, it is about consolidating support ahead of next year's presidential election. The Democrats want to increase social welfare spending for certain groups, while the Republicans claim the administration's spending plans promise "higher taxes, higher interest rates, more dependency on China and an economy that doesn't work for working Americans".
That has become the defining characteristic of the partisan politics in the US, namely that each side cares more about its own interests than about the US' national interests. They only care about getting enough votes to enter the White House. Contrary to the expectations and intentions of the US founding fathers, the checks and balances of the US political system have led to the paralysis of governance.
When asked about the possibility of invoking the 14th amendment to the US Constitution that states "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned", Biden replied "I've not gotten there yet." The problem is that even if he invokes the 14th amendment, it might not timely break the impasse as it would likely lead to a prolonged legal dispute.
It is ordinary Americans and the US' credibility that are paying the price for the strife between the two parties.