It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Debt Limit

Posted: Feb 07, 2014 5:15 PM

Does the world feel different? If it does, it's because we're operating under a debt limit again.

The debt limit has returned after a months-long suspension was passed by Congress last year. The federal government is once again ostensibly limited by a $17.2 trillion statutory debt limit:

The new cap on borrowing is expected to be about $17.2 trillion. It means Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will have to employ bookkeeping maneuvers to keep the government functioning until Congress further raises the borrowing limit.

In a letter Friday to congressional leaders, Lew warned that he has less maneuvering room now than he had last year, when such "extraordinary measures" bought five months of time for the government to keep borrowing at the previous $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

Guy had a great rundown of how Congressional Republicans' debt limit strategy has evolved, but it might look like we're going to get a "clean" debt limit hike. Whatever happens, it likely needs to happen in the month of February.

Treasury Sec. Jack Lew has "extraordinary measures" that he can use, but those will likely be less lasting than previous measures, because the month of February is unique for the government coffers: tax rebates go out, but tax payments do not come in. It's likely that the "X-date" for the debt limit will fall at the end of the month, though Sec. Lew has been more pessimistic than independent estimates.

We're back in the world of the debt limit. It might hit sooner rather than later.

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