Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked Congress on Friday to lift the debt ceiling “without controversy or brinksmanship” in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.
“Increasing the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved,” he wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.
Lew said the U.S. will lose its statutory authority to borrow after March 15 and subsequently be forced to take “extraordinary measures” to meet its obligations.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that “those measures would probably be exhausted and the Treasury would probably run out of cash in October or November,” although it cautioned that such projections could change.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked the Republican-led Congress to act swiftly to raise the debt ceiling.
“The Treasury Secretary’s letter is another reminder of the consequences of Republicans’ culture of crisis,” she said in a statement. “There is no reason that the Republican Congress should not act immediately to take the prospect of a catastrophic default off of the table. Failure to act would have savage impacts on American families: tumbling retirement savings and soaring interest rates for student loans, mortgages, credit cards, and car payments.”