‘No risk’ the US will lose its top credit rating, says Treasury’s Geithner

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Tuesday there is “no risk” the U.S. will lose its top credit rating amid a new analysis that revised its outlook on American debt to “negative.”

Geithner took to the airwaves of financial news networks to push back against a report Monday by Standard & Poor’s that lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative,” reflecting political uncertainty over whether lawmakers will reach an agreement to address long-term debt. 

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There is no chance that the U.S. will lose its top credit rating, Geithner said, forcefully disputing the notion that S&P or other ratings services might downgrade U.S. bonds from their current AAA rating.

“No risk of that, no risk,” Geithner said on the Fox Business Network

{mosads}”Washington is a hard place to read. And it’s hard for people to look past the political rhetoric and try to understand whether the leadership of Washington is going to take the tough steps necessary to get ahead of this problem,” the Treasury secretary explained. “I think the prospects for a bipartisan agreement are better than they’ve been in a long period of time. Of course, we have to turn that into action.”

To help alleviate pressure, Geithner said he would prefer Congress authorize a substantial increase in the debt ceiling, though the secretary said the administration would defer to Congress in making the ultimate determination.

“If it were up to me, knowing that you want the world to know that our commitment to meet our obligation will never be in question, you would do it for as long as possible,” he said. “Important to recognize that even under Paul Ryan’s budget plan, you’d have to raise the debt limit by probably $2 trillion over the next 18 months to get through this, roughly the same amount as in the president’s framework.”

The administration trotted Geithner out on Tuesday after the S&P report rattled markets on Monday and drove Republican criticism of the White House over the Obama administration’s deficit-reduction plans. 

The Republican-held House passed a budget last week that would make substantial cuts over the next decade and reshape entitlement programs. But that plan, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), isn’t expected to advance through the Senate and reach Obama’s desk, and the administration has launched a new round of negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on deficit reduction. 

The administration announced Monday that Vice President Joe Biden would spearhead those negotiations in a summit May 5 at Blair House, though it’s not clear whether Republicans on Capitol Hill intend to participate. Those meetings run parallel to talks held by the Gang of Six in the Senate intended to advance another bipartisan plan for tackling deficits and debt. 

Geithner said a key step toward reducing uncertainty over U.S. debt would be to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling, a step lawmakers will need to take some time this spring, but which Republicans have insisted must be paired with serious fiscal reforms. 

Congress last authorized an increase in February 2010, raising the limit by $1.9 trillion to a total of $14.3 trillion.

Updated 3:01 p.m.

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