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 MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Democrats sense new momentum in Trump tax return fight IRS draft memo found that agency must provide tax returns to Congress: report 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push The Memo: Trump allies see impeachment push backfiring on Democrats 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 - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit On The Money: Congress, White House aim to include debt limit increase in spending deal | McConnell optimistic budget deal near | Carson defends HUD eviction plan | Senate votes to undo tax hike on Gold Star families MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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.