The federal government will exhaust its authority to borrow money as early as March without a deal between lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

A view of the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial. (Alex Brandon/AP). A view of the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Congress and the White House agreed to suspend the nation’s debt limit through Feb. 7 as part of a deal last month to end a shutdown that lasted 16 days and resulted in furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors.

The Treasury can resort to what it describes as “extraordinary measures” to continue borrowing after Feb. 7 if lawmakers do not extend the suspension or raise the debt limit by then as part of ongoing fiscal negotiations, which have shown few signs of progress in recent weeks.

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The CBO said those moves would “probably be exhausted in March,” but the agency noted that the timing of tax refunds and receipts between February and April could shift that date to sometime in May or June. Failure to reach a debt deal before then could result in default, which economists predict would lead to economic catastrophe.

The Treasury’s options for extraordinary measures include suspending its investments in a federal-worker retirement program known as the Thrift Savings Plan, halting the issuance of new securities to certain federal-employee retirement funds and stopping the issuance of new securities and savings bonds for state and local governments, according to the CBO.

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