Lew tells Congress shutdown unlikely to buy time on debt limit

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew informed Congress late Tuesday that the federal government was employing its final tools to avoid hitting the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit. [WATCH VIDEO]

In a letter to congressional leaders, Lew said that while the current government shutdown has created "additional uncertainty" regarding the government's cash flows, he did not anticipate it would alter the current debt limit deadline of Oct. 17 unless it dragged on for some time.

Lew sent the letter to Congress to inform lawmakers that the Treasury had begun using its final "extraordinary measures," which allow the government to free up cash to remain under its borrowing cap and to continue paying bills. Lew previously warned Congress that those measures would be exhausted by Oct. 17, leaving the government with just $30 billion in cash to keep paying all its bills. 

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He has noted previously, and emphasized in his latest letter, that government bills can total as much as $60 billion on any given day, meaning that by that date the government may no longer pay all its bills.

The White House and Democrats have said they will refuse to negotiate on the debt limit, arguing the nation's credit reputation is too important to be used for haggling. And while the government is embroiled in its first shutdown in nearly two decades, Republicans are indicating they will be pushing for major concessions in exchange for hiking the nation's borrowing cap.

"If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all its obligations for the first time in our history," Lew wrote. "For this reason, I respectfully urge Congress to act immediately to meet its responsibility by extending the nation's borrowing authority."