It’s that time of year again already: debt-ceiling raising time. In what is now a somewhat predictable exercise, a self-dug cliff or some other topographical feature must now be raised to spur the government to act. Today, the newest gauntlet was thrown down by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in what looks to be the latest round of American debt brinksmanship.
In a letter to Congress, Lew said the U.S. will arrive at the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by mid-October. At that point, Lew writes, “the United States will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand on any given day.”
Raising the debt limit, or the amount the country can borrow, requires congressional approval. A vote on the debt limit was already on the cards for lawmakers, but Lew’s letter set an earlier deadline for action. But, as the Washington Post points out, Congress is only scheduled to be in session for 9 days in September, making it likely a temporary deal will need to be struck to fund the government for weeks or months. Congress approved a short-term increase to the debt-ceiling earlier this year, but reconciling Republican and Democratic demands could be tricky, according to the Post, which reports that “with the two sides far apart, there is no clear path to resolving the differences.”
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