Congress is taking a real gamble with the debt limit this time around, as the issuing of income-tax refund checks in the spring is expected to complicate things.  

The government’s borrowing authority expires on Feb. 7. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sounded the alarm again on Monday at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he warned that after Friday, the extraordinary measures the Treasury needs to continue financing the government will only be effective for a “brief span of time.” His prediction is that the Treasury could exhaust those measures by the end of the month.

“Even though these are estimates, it is clear that extraordinary measures will not last very long,” Lew said at the event. “After we exhaust this borrowing capacity, we will be left with only the cash we have on hand and any incoming revenues to meet our country’s commitments. ... Without borrowing authority, at some point very soon, it would not be possible to meet all of the obligations of the federal government.”

He called on Congress to act “right away” to increase the debt ceiling.

“It would be a mistake to wait until the 11th hour to get this done,” Lew said. “The fact is, simply delaying action on the debt limit can cause harm to our economy, rattle financial markets and hurt taxpayers. ... So the bottom line is: Time is short. Congress needs to act to extend the nation’s borrowing authority, and it needs to act now.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans were going to decide what they wanted in exchange for increasing the borrowing limit. Ryan told CBS Evening News last week that the debt limit provides an opportunity to make “some steps in the right direction.” Ryan is looking at a proposal for job creation or one that promotes debt reduction.

However, “we will not default,” Ryan said. “It will not be in jeopardy again.”