WASHINGTON — As the nation fast approaches its debt limit, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Tuesday issued his strongest warning yet to Congress about the economic consequences of waiting until just before the deadline to pass an increase.
“Trying to time a debt limit increase to the last minute could be very dangerous,” Lew told the Economic Club of Washington. “We cannot afford for Congress to gamble with the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”
Republicans are balking at raising the $16.7 trillion debt limit — which Congress must do by as early as mid-October — unless the Obama administration agrees to major concessions including deep spending cuts and a delay in implementing the health care reform law.
During a meeting last week, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave Lew a list of times in the past when the White House and Congress used the need to raise the debt limit as a way to find bipartisan solutions on fiscal issues, Boehner’s office said. Boehner has said that any increase in the debt limit must be offset by budget cuts or spending reforms at least as large as the increase.
Lew reiterated Tuesday that Obama would not negotiate raising the debt limit because it involves paying for bills already authorized by Congress and the notion of a federal government default should not be a bargaining chip.