CBO: Debt-limit boost can wait until possibly November

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"This is going to be an issue not this month, not the following month, and not the following month. Not until this fall," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday.

Baucus invited Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to speak to committee members last week. While Republicans have suggested items like comprehensive tax reform could be tied to a debt-limit boost, Lew has so far stuck to the White House's opening bid, which is that the limit is too serious a matter to be tied to other policy goals and should be raised cleanly.

Baucus said he backed Lew in the push for a clean hike, even though the White House has ultimately come to the table after making the same demand in previous debt ceiling battles.

The government reached its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit on May 19. A prior agreement by Congress had actually suspended the cap for three months, and when it was reimposed in May, the cap was automatically hiked to cover the $300 billion in borrowing that occurred during the suspension period.

Now the Treasury is employing its "extraordinary measures," which are a host of maneuvers that free up funds for the government once it can no longer borrow to meet its obligations. Those tools, combined with the continued influx of tax receipts and other payments to the federal government, should give Washington several months to haggle over the limit.

However, the CBO warned it could not be more precise at this juncture, citing uncertainty about the flow of funds in and out of the government over the coming months, as well as how much time the extraordinary measures will buy.

The CBO said it would be up to the Obama administration to determine what bills were paid and which were not once the measures were exhausted.