WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday that the Treasury Department will run out of borrowing capacity no later than Oct. 17, urging Congress to raise the debt limit in a timely manner.
"Treasury now estimates that extraordinary measures will be exhausted no later than Oct. 17. We estimate that, at that point, Treasury would have only approximately 30 billion U.S. dollars to meet our country's commitments. This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days," Lew said in a letter to congressional leaders.
The debt limit impasse that took place in 2011 caused significant harm to the economy and a downgrade to the credit rating of the United States. The drawn-out dispute caused business uncertainty to increase, consumer confidence to drop, and financial markets to fall, he said.
"If Congress were to repeat that brinkmanship in 2013, it could inflict even greater harm on the economy. And if the government should ultimately become unable to pay all of its bills, the results could be catastrophic," Lew cautioned.
Washington faces two looming deadlines: one for funding the government in the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1; the other for the debt limit, which Lew said will need to be raised by Oct. 17.
The Republican-led House of Representatives on Friday passed a stopgap spending bill, which was championed by the conservatives, to fund the government through Dec. 15 at current funding levels while prohibiting funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
The House bill is moving to the Democrats-controlled Senate, where Democrats would for certain restore the Obamacare funding before sending it back to the House for passage by Sept. 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.
"The President remains willing to negotiate over the future direction of fiscal policy, but he will not negotiate over whether the United States will pay its bills for past commitments. Extending borrowing authority does not increase government spending; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved," Lew added.