Mnuchin asks Congress to raise debt ceiling 'as soon as possible'

Mnuchin asks Congress to raise debt ceiling 'as soon as possible'
© Greg Nash

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBudget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Conservative group raises concerns about potential budget deal How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE on Monday urged congressional leaders to raise the federal debt limit “as soon as possible” as the department begins accounting maneuvers to prevent a default.

Mnuchin wrote in a March 4 letter to top lawmakers that the Treasury Department had begun a “debt issuance suspension period” to avoid missing a debt payment, and asked for swift action to raise the cap on federal debt.

“I respectfully urge Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible,” Mnuchin wrote to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets 10 questions for Robert Mueller Ocasio-Cortez tears into Trump's immigration agenda: 'It's about ethnicity and racism' MORE (D-Calif.) and seven other congressional leaders.

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The recipients include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.), and the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

The legal limit on how much the federal government can owe creditors, known as the “debt ceiling,” was reimposed Saturday after a one-year suspension ran out on March 2. The Treasury Department has begun a series of financial and accounting moves called “extraordinary measures” to prevent the U.S. from breaching the debt ceiling.

Those maneuvers should give lawmakers and President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE until September to reach a deal, according to recent estimates, though the exact deadline is uncertain.

Members of both parties are eager to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt, which could trigger a global economic meltdown. Even so, it's unclear how party leaders plan to raise the debt ceiling and whether it will be entangled in testy government funding negotiations.

Mnuchin wrote in the Monday letter that Treasury had halted investments in certain benefits funds for federal workers and retirees to avoid exceeding the debt limit. The secretary said federal employees and retirees who receive benefits from those funds should be unaffected.