The United States could hit the legal limit on its ability to borrow as soon as March 31 and faces serious consequences unless Congress acts by then to raise it, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday.

Even a short-term or limited default would have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades, Geithner said in a letter to U.S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid that was issued by Treasury.

(Reporting by Glenn Somerville; Editing by James Dalgleish)