The White House and Congress are quickly veering toward another showdown over the debt ceiling.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote in a letter to Congress on Thursday that the nation’s borrowing limit will need to be raised by late February or early March.
As part of the bill to reopen the government in mid-October, the debt limit was suspended through Feb. 7, 2014. The Treasury can use so-called “extraordinary measures” after that point to keep borrowing and paying the nation’s bills for a few weeks thereafter.
In his letter, Lew cited the recent bipartisan budget deal brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and urged a quick resolution to the debt ceiling.
“In this spirit, I am writing to urge Congress to take prompt action to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by extending the nation’s borrowing authority. It is incumbent on Congress to allow Treasury to finance the spending levels established in the budget agreement as well as the commitments previously approved by Congress,” Lew wrote in the letter.
The budget deal sets topline discretionary spending levels for the next two years, likely avoiding the threat of government shutdowns over that period. But it doesn’t do anything to address the debt limit issue.
In the past week, numerous Republican leaders have come out and suggested that they won’t accept a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling. Ryan suggested on Tuesday that House Republicans might demand that the Obama administration approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he “can’t imagine” a “clean” hike in the debt ceiling.
Here’s the full letter from Lew to congressional leaders:
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