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 MnuchinOn The Money: Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of emergency loans | House seeks to salvage vote on spending bill | Economists tell lawmakers: Kill the virus to heal the economy Economists spanning spectrum say recovery depends on containing virus Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs 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 PelosiPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare House lawmakers reach deal to avert shutdown Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE (D-Calif.) and seven other congressional leaders.

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The recipients include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy's Democratic challenger to launch first TV ad highlighting Air Force service as single mother Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to probe politicization of pandemic response Schumer interrupted during live briefing by heckler: 'Stop lying to the people' Jacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee 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 TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate 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.