Lew sets debt ceiling deadline for end of February

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has set a deadline for Congress to come to an agreement on extending the debt ceiling: the end of the month.

Lew, in an interview on set to air Monday night on NPR, says the Treasury Department is not able to use as many "extraordinary measures" as it usually does to extend the deadline. Congress, in its October deal to end the government shutdown, extended the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, but Treasury is able to use such measures to get by between the deadline and when it actually loses borrowing authority. Lew is saying the latter will happen at the end of the month.

“Our current estimates are that at the end of February, we will run out of borrowing capacity, even using extraordinary measures," Lew said, according to excerpts of the interview. "So that means Congress really has a very short window of time – from now until the end of the month – to complete action.”

Lew added: “These extraordinary measures have different value at different times of the year, and because we’re now at a time of year when there are relatively few things that can be deferred, and an awful lot of bills to repay, particularly tax refunds in February, there will be a much shorter period than people have been accustomed to in the past.”

Lew made similar comments earlier Monday during an appearance at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Correction: This post initially said Congress extended the debt ceiling until Feb. 15. It is Feb. 7.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · February 3