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 MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer 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 PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) and seven other congressional leaders.

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The recipients include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done 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 TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement 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.