Republicans responsible if country defaults: Geithner

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 14, 2011 10:11 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday told Republican lawmakers that they would shoulder the blame if the country got too close to defaulting on its debt and roiled markets worldwide.

In yet another warning about the perils of not allowing the United States to borrow more, Geithner said it would be deeply irresponsible for lawmakers to use debt limit negotiations for political gains.

Congress must agree to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or the legal amount that the country can borrow. But Republicans have said they are unwilling to do so without reforms on government spending and have threatened to take negotiations to the deadline.

"(Lawmakers) will say there's leverage in it, we can advance it. But that would be deeply irresponsible and they will own the risk," Geithner said.

"It won't happen in the end, but if they take it too close to the edge, they will own responsibility for that miscalculation," he said.

Treasury has forecast that the limit will be reached by May 16. After that point, Treasury can take emergency measures to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. But those actions will only give the United States about a two-month window before Treasury is unable to issue debt to fund government operations.

Geithner said lawmakers "understand that you can't take any risk the world starts to think the United States won't meet its obligations."

"There's no conceivable way that this city, this government can court that basic risk," he said.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Glenn Somerville, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)