Congress’ failure to pass a debt ceiling bill has lead to the Treasury Department taking “extraordinary measures” to continue to pay the nation’s debts. Treasury Secretary Geithner has now written a letter to Congress saying his is running out of tricks.
From the Treasury Department:
Treasury currently expects to exhaust these extraordinary measures between mid-February and early March of this year. We will provide a more narrow range with a more targeted estimate at a later date. Any estimate, however, will be subject to a significant amount of uncertainty because we are entering the tax filing season, when the amounts and timing of tax payments and refunds are unpredictable. For this reason, Congress should act as early as possible to extend normal borrowing authority in order to avoid the risk of default and any interruption in payments.
If the extraordinary measures were allowed to expire without an increase in borrowing authority, Treasury would be left to fund the government solely with the cash we have on hand on any given day. As you know, cash would not be adequate to meet existing obligations for any meaningful length of time because the government is currently operating at a deficit…
Protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is the responsibility of Congress because only Congress can extend the nation’s borrowing authority. No Congress has ever failed to meet that responsibility. It must be understood that the nation’s creditworthiness is not a bargaining chip or a hostage that can be taken to advance any political agenda; it is an essential underpinning of our strength as a nation. Threatening to undermine our creditworthiness is no less irresponsible than threatening to undermine the rule of law, and no more legitimate than any other common demand for ransom.
Lines seem pretty set between the parties on a debt ceiling deal – Republicans want their cuts and Democrats won’t negotiate with hostage takers. We’ll see who folds rather soon.