Treasury: Nov. 5 deadline for Congress to act on debt limit

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Treasury Secretary Warns of Fast-Approaching Debt Ceiling


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The deadline for Congress to increase the government's borrowing limit is coming earlier than expected, moving up to about Nov. 5.

That means the issue likely must be addressed before House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves Congress at the end of October.

READ MORE: Clerk jailed over gay marriage says pope encouraged her

Three weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew issued a less precise timeline that was interpreted as mid-November or later, but he told top lawmakers in a letter Thursday that tax receipts have come in below estimates and payments into military retirement trust funds are higher than anticipated.

See more photos of Congress addressing the issue:

13 PHOTOS
Congress budget, temporary spending bill
See Gallery
Treasury: Nov. 5 deadline for Congress to act on debt limit
An American flag hangs from fire truck ladders in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The Senate passed a U.S. government spending plan hours before a shutdown deadline Wednesday as President Barack Obamas administration sought to facilitate talks with congressional leaders on a longer-term budget deal. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leaves after voting against a Senate stopgap spending bill that would avert a government shutdown, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. A temporary funding measure that would keep the government open past a midnight deadline easily sailed through the Senate on Wednesday and should shortly make its way through a badly divided House and on to President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. points while talking with visitors on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. A temporary funding measure that would keep the government open past a midnight deadline easily sailed through the Senate on Wednesday and should shortly make its way through a badly divided House and on to President Barack Obama. Paul voted against the spending bill. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. talks with visitors on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, after voting yes in a Senate vote that approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, after voting yes for a Senate approved stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, is interviewed as he leaves after a Senate vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. to approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. is at center/ . (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., talks on her cell phone in the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, after voting yes in a Senate vote that approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Capitol Dome, covered with scaffolding is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. On Wednesday, the Senate easily approved a stopgap spending bill to avert government shutdown; House to follow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sits in the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, after voting yes in a Senate vote that approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., talks on her cell phone in the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, after voting yes in a Senate vote that approved a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. The vote now goes to the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Capitol Dome, covered with scaffolding is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. On Wednesday, the Senate easily approved a stopgap spending bill to avert government shutdown; House to follow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., talks with reporters as she stands in an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. Ayotte is boldly taking on a role most of her fellow Republicans have shied away from: public foil to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Readying for what could be a tough re-election bid in an increasingly swing state, Ayotte has challenged Cruz as he has pushed the Senate to resist compromise and deny taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood even if it means a government shutdown.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, leaves the House Chamber after the House approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government open, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Just hours before a midnight deadline, a bitterly divided Congress approved the stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government open, but with no assurance there won't be yet another shutdown showdown in December. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The Congressional Budget Office, which supplies estimates to lawmakers, said in August that the deadline would be about late November or early December.

Increasing the government's borrowing limit above $18.1 trillion is needed to prevent a first-ever default on government obligations like interest payments and Social Security. The government has never failed to meet its obligations and a default would likely have severe effects on interest rates and the economy.

SEE MORE: 'Joaquin' strengthens to Category 4, batters Bahamas

Since the limit was reset in March, Treasury has employed accounting maneuvers known as "extraordinary measures" to be able to continue to borrow. Those measures chiefly involve suspending payments into federal retirement funds.

"We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures on or about Thursday, Nov. 5," Lew wrote top lawmakers. "At that point, we would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand, which we currently forecast to be below $30 billion."

Congress last increased the debt limit in February 2014.

In 2011, Republicans used the need to increase the debt limit as leverage to force President Barack Obama to agree to spending cuts. But Obama has since refused to negotiate over the debt limit and last year's increase passed largely on the votes of House and Senate Democrats.

The debt limit issue is but one element in a difficult matrix of issues facing Congress this fall. While Republicans controlling the House and Senate managed Wednesday to avert a shutdown by funding the government through Dec. 11, difficult negotiations over increasing the spending caps set in 2011 - as demanded by Obama - have only started.

Last week's shocking announcement by Boehner that he is stepping down at the end of the month only complicates matters. So too do an ongoing set of leadership races to replace him and Speaker-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Boehner is leaving under pressure from tea party lawmakers unhappy that he wasn't using a must-do temporary funding bill to "defund" Planned Parenthood.

The threat of a debt default is far more dangerous than a partial government shutdown and top Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have promised it won't happen. McConnell reluctantly voted to increase the limit last year and will now have to recruit more Republicans to join him since there are fewer Senate Democrats after last year's midterm landslide.

"The treasury secretary's letter is a stark warning of the stakes of Republicans' calendar of chaos," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif. "Failure to protect the full faith and credit of the United States would have a devastating impact on hardworking families across the country - including tumbling retirement savings and rising interest rates for student loans, mortgages, credit cards and car payments."

Read Full Story

People are Reading