The credit rating agency Moody's on Wednesday warned that the United States' credit rating could be downgraded if it doesn't address its deficits. Steven Hess, a Moody's senior vice president, said in a statement:
Moody's Investors Service said that the fiscal package passed by both houses of Congress yesterday is a further step in clarifying the medium-term deficit and debt trajectory of the federal government. It does not, however, provide a basis for a meaningful improvement in the government's debt ratios over the medium term. The rating agency expects that further fiscal measures are likely to be taken in coming months that would result in lower future budget deficits, which are necessary if the negative outlook on the government's bond rating is to be returned to stable. On the other hand, lack of further deficit reduction measures could affect the rating negatively. Notably, yesterday's package does not address the federal government's statutory debt limit, which was reached on December 31. The need to raise the debt limit may affect the outcome of future budget negotiations.
Although Moody's believes that the debt limit will eventually be raised and that the risk of default on Treasury bonds is extremely low, this confluence of events adds uncertainty to the outcome of negotiations. However, the spending measures that result from the negotiations will form part of the medium-term outlook for the budget deficit. Moody's will need to consider these measures in assessing the rating outlook. Further revenue measures may also form part of the negotiations. The debt trajectory resulting from this process is likely to determine whether the Aaa rating is returned to a stable outlook or downgraded to Aa1, as Moody's stated last September.