Monday, January 02, 2006

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow urges Congress to raise $8.184 T debt limit

Could this be the first time in history the US defaults on paying its bills? Treasury Secretary John Snow seems quite concerned. Read the REUTERS report below:

(29 Dec 05) U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow warned lawmakers on Thursday that a legally set limit on the government's ability to borrow will be hit in mid-February and urged Congress to raise it quickly.

Failure to do so potentially risks throwing the country into its first default in history, Snow warned in what has become virtually an annual rite as U.S. borrowing needs spiral.

"The administration now projects that the statutory debt limit, currently $8.184 trillion, will be reached in mid-February 2006," Snow said in a letter to 21 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate released by Treasury after financial markets had closed.

Snow said that Treasury, if the debt limit was not raised by then, would have to take "extraordinary actions" to keep paying its bills for everything from Social Security to national defense spending.

Even if Treasury took "all available prudent and legal actions to avoid breaching the statutory debt limit, we anticipate that we can finance government operations no longer than mid-March."
The debt limit was last raised in November 2004 by $800 billion to its current level. The letter to Congress does not specify an amount the Treasury wants the ceiling set at this time.

But he said quick action was needed to preserve the U.S. ability to borrow in global capital markets at the lowest rates possible.

"A failure to increase the debt limit in a timely manner would threaten this unique and important position," Snow said.

The call for an increase in the debt ceiling typically provokes a round of criticism from opposition politicians over excessive government spending and the process is drawn out until nearly the last possible moment.

Treasury officials had said in November it was bracing for hefty borrowing needs in the January-March quarter, likely around a record $171 billion, and that it likely would hit the debt limit in that period.

Among other factors, the Treasury cited increased spending for rebuilding Gulf Coast areas hit hard by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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