Treasury boosts size of securities offerings

AP News
Posted: Jan 31, 2018 7:50 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department, faced with rising budget deficits, announced Wednesday that the government is increasing the size of various securities offerings while the Congressional Budget Office moved up date when the current debt ceiling will be hit.

Treasury officials said they will boost the size of the two-year and three-year note auctions by $2 billion per month over the next quarter and also increase the size of the upcoming five-year, seven-year and 10-year notes and the next 30-year bond by $1 billion each starting in February.

Meanwhile, the CBO said late Wednesday that it now expects the government will have exhausted the extraordinary measures it is using to avoid hitting the current debt ceiling by the first half of March. CBO had earlier said the debt ceiling would not be hit until late March or early April. But in its new report, CBO said it was moving up that date because of the impact of the December tax-cut legislation.

Treasury officials had announced Monday that Treasury will have to borrow $441 billion in the current January-March quarter, the largest amount in eight years, as budget deficits surge under the impact of higher spending and the Trump administration tax cuts.

Treasury is employing bookkeeping measures to keep from exceeding the current borrowing limit but will soon run out of maneuvering room unless Congress raises the debt limit.

The new CBO report estimated that the government will lose $10 billion to $15 billion in individual tax revenue per month as a result of the tax cut legislation President Donald Trump pushed through Congress in December, shortening the maneuvering room Treasury has to avoid hitting the current debt ceiling.

If Congress does not act it would trigger an unprecedented default on the nation's $20.5 trillion national debt, sending shock waves through financial markets worldwide.

While the federal government has gone through a number of partial shutdowns because of failure to pass a budget to keep the government operating for a time, it has never defaulted on debt payments. However, a standoff in 2011 prompted Standard & Poor's to downgrade slightly the government's top credit rating.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the new CBO report had highlighted the "dire effects" of the Republican-passed tax cuts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a letter to congressional leaders that he was extending the "debt issuance suspension period" from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28. That move allows him to withdraw investments from various government worker pension plans. Those plans are restored once the debt ceiling is raised.

In testimony to Congress Tuesday, Mnuchin said the Trump administration was open to eliminating the borrowing limit altogether if an agreement can reached between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. "We are very open to bipartisan solutions that would be an alternative to the current system which we agree doesn't work well," Mnuchin said during an appearance before the Senate Banking Committee.

The government's borrowing needs are rising because of rising federal budget deficits. The deficit for the 2017 budget year, which ended last September, totaled $665.8 billion and private forecasts are estimating this year's deficit could hit $765 billion and could top $1 trillion by 2019.

These projections reflect growing costs for Social Security and Medicare as the baby boom generation retires and lost revenue from the big tax cut that President Donald Trump pushed through Congress in December. The tax cut package has been estimated to boost deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.