Just when you thought things were calming down on Capitol Hill and normalcy had returned, another fiscal showdown is set to bring back the hectic feeling of the fall of 2013. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew raised the debt limit alarm again on Wednesday, when he warned lawmakers that they have less time than had been supposed to extend the nation’s borrowing ability.
Lew has said the Treasury could run out of money by late February or early March. But in a letter to Congress on Wednesday, he wrote that the best course of action is to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling before the Feb. 7 deadline.
Congress pushed back the debt limit crisis last fall when a bipartisan budget deal ended a 16-day government shutdown. Originally Lew thought that after the February deadline, the Treasury could use various cash management tools known as “extraordinary measures” to continue funding the government.
“Based on our best and most recent information, we believe that Treasury is more likely to exhaust those measures in late February,” the letter read. “While this forecast is subject to inherent variability, we do not foresee any reasonable scenario in which the extraordinary measures would last for an extended period of time.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week that a major fight should be avoided over the debt limit, which has the potential to cause the United States to default on its obligations.
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“[We] shouldn’t even get close to it,” Boehner told a news conference and expressed hope that his chamber and the Senate work quickly to increase the debt limit.
Whether Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., got that memo is another story. After inking the budget deal in December, the House Budget Committee chairman made it clear that Republicans in both Houses were going to huddle and “discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit.”
“We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit,” Ryan told “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”
The White House has maintained there will be no negotiation over raising the debt limit.