Congress will need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit — or debt ceiling — by late October, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told congressional leaders on Wednesday.
The government’s borrowing cap had been suspended through mid-March. Currently, the Treasury Department is deploying so-called “extraordinary measures” to keep the country paying its bills. Lew said those extraordinary measures would likely be exhausted by sometime in October.
“Given this unavoidable uncertainty, Treasury is not able to provide a specific estimate of how long the extraordinary measures will last,” Lew said in the letter to House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
“Nonetheless, we believe that the measures will not be exhausted before late October, and it is likely that they will last for at least a brief additional period of time.”
The need to raise the nation’s borrowing cap will add to a logjam of a legislative schedule when Congress returns from an August recess. In September, it needs to pass a spending bill to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown, as well as weigh in on a deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
And in October, Congress will look to pass a long-term bill that will keep federal money flowing to states to pay for transportation and infrastructure progress. Congress looks likely to pass a bill before it leaves town this week that would extend funding on that front through the end of October.
Republican leaders have constantly squabbled with President Barack Obama over raising the nation’s debt ceiling during his time in office. The most notable fights came in 2011, when the two sides reached a deal that imposed spending cuts, and in 2013, when raising the debt ceiling was tied to the bill that eventually reopened the government after a 16-day shutdown.
This time, the 2016 presidential election could add a wrinkle into the debate.
Read the full letter below:
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