Press Release

AFT, 138 other Groups Warn Congress Over Debt Ceiling

Default—or the threat of default—would have a devastating impact on all Americans

For Release:


Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603

WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers and 138 other groups, representing a broad cross section of civil society, sent a letter today to Congressional leaders demanding the passage of a clean bill to raise the debt limit to preserve the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and avoid an economic catastrophe.

The full text of the letter is below and the formatted version can be read here.


February 10, 2023


Congressional Leadership

United States Congress

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Speaker McCarthy, Minority Leader Jeffries, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of 139 organizations representing millions of Americans across the country, we strongly urge you to pass a clean bill to raise the debt limit without hesitation, to protect American families and our economy from a catastrophe that is both wholly manufactured and devastatingly real in its consequences.

As you know, raising the debt limit in no way creates additional federal spending, nor does it create new obligations for the federal government. It simply allows the government to meet previous obligations made over time by congressional majorities and presidents of both parties. It ensures that the sanctity of our fiscal word is never questioned or compromised; failure to do so would cause tremendous economic harm. That is why Congress has a long history of working in a bipartisan manner to raise the debt limit with no strings attached, as was done three times most recently under the Trump administration.

The full faith and credit of the U.S. government—the expectation that the United States will pay its bills—is the underpinning that protects and supports our entire economy and the millions of livelihoods that depend on this stability. Social Security recipients and veterans count on receiving their earned benefits. Doctors and hospitals who treat Medicaid and Medicare patients depend on receiving the reimbursements they’ve been promised. Federal employees—dedicated public servants who help ensure that our food is safe to eat and our bridges are safe to drive on—have faith that they will be paid for their work. State and local governments rely on collecting the funding for schools that Congress has pledged to them. And the financial sector, which extends credit to individuals and businesses while also investing in our economy, can continue to do so knowing they can trust that the U.S. government will pay its bills on time and in full.

Doing otherwise could result in default—or the threat of default—which would have a devastating impact on all Americans. If the government cannot pay its bills, families and businesses may not be able to pay their own bills as they await money they’ve earned. Interest rates on products that people across the country use every day, from cars to mortgages to credit cards to student loans, will skyrocket, resulting in thousands of dollars in burdensome and unexpected costs. For example, owning a home would cost an additional $130,000 in lifetime fees in the case of default. Americans who’ve put away for retirement plans would see their 401(k)s nosedive and lose their value.

As always, Congress has the authority and opportunity to modify and alter our fiscal path by enacting prospective adjustments to our tax and spending policies. To this end, we welcome a robust, thoughtful debate about the value of creating a fairer tax code, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and making additional investments in our nation via discretionary spending programs through the annual appropriations bills. But those conversations should not be tied to making good on the obligations that previous Congresses and presidents have already passed into law, and they should not be tied to threatening the financial health of families, communities and the global economy. Doing so would be fiscally imprudent and shortsighted.

Again, we urge you to pass a clean bill raising the debt limit as soon as possible and avoid unnecessarily jeopardizing our economy.



American Federation of Teachers

A Better Balance

A+ Schools - Pittsburgh Learning Collaborative Member

A+ Schools, Pittsburgh

AASA, The School Superintendents Association


Actors' Equity Association



Alliance for Retired Americans

American Federation of Government Employees

American Federation of Musicians

American Federation of School Administrators

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

American Psychological Association

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

Americans for Tax Fairness


Association of Education Service Agencies (AESA)

Association of Educational Service Agencies

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA

Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autism Society of America

Be A Hero

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Broward for Progress

California Alliance for Retired Americans


Caring Across Generations

Center for American Progress

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Justice & Democracy

Center for Popular Democracy

Clean Elections Texas

Clean Water Action

Coalition on Human Needs

Community Change Action

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Council of the Great City Schools

Courage For America


Economic Policy Institute

Economic Security Project Action

EDGE Consulting Partners

Education Reform Now


Families USA

First Focus Campaign for Children

FL National Organization for Women (NOW)

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

For Our Future Action Fund

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Futures Without Violence

Generations United


Greater Orlando National Organization for Women (NOW)

Groundwork Collaborative

Health Care Voices

Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE)

Hispanic Federation

House Accountability War Room

Impact Fund


Indivisible East Bay

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)

International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)

Jewish Women International

Justice in Aging

League of Conservation Voters

Main Street Alliance

Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.





National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Association for Music Education

National Association for Pupil Transportation

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Elementary School Principals

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

National Council of Jewish Women

National Education Association

National Employment Law Project

National Immigration Law Center

National Nurses United (NNU)

National Organization for Women

National Postal Mail Handlers Union

National Respite Coalition

National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium

National Rural Education Association

National Women's Law Center

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New Jersey Association on Correction

New Jersey Citizen Action

NextGen America



Our Revolution

P Street


Patriotic Millionaires

People's Action

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO

Protect Our Care

Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)

Public Citizen

Public Justice Center

Rachel Carson Council


Seafarers International Union

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Social Security Works


Tahirih Justice Center

Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED)

The 99% Pennsylvania campaign

The Arc of the US

The Education Trust

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW)

The Young Invincibles

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

UltraViolet Action


United Teachers Los Angeles

United We Dream Network

Voices for Progress


Working Families Party

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.