By Rachelle Younglai
BALTIMORE May 17 U.S. Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner said on Thursday that raising the debt ceiling
did not have to be a crisis as it was last year when partisan
bickering over how to do so cost the United States its top
"It's not responsible to put at risk people's confidence in
the credibility of the United States," Geithner said at the
Greater Baltimore Committee group of regional businesses and
The Obama administration is already squabbling with
Republicans over how to raise the debt ceiling, with the most
powerful Republican in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner,
demanding that any raise in the debt limit be exceeded by
The United States is expected to reach the $16.4 trillion
debt limit, or amount it is legally allowed to borrow, after the
November presidential election and before the end of the year.
But the U.S. Treasury has tools that would push out the
deadline until "some time" in early 2013, Geithner said. Raising
the debt limit "does not have to be a crisis. It's a crisis of
Congress's making," he said.
Last year's protracted battle over how to raise the debt
limit pushed the United States to the brink of a default and
caused Standard & Poor's to cut the long-term U.S. credit rating
by one notch to AA-plus.
When asked how the United States could win back its
top-notch credit rating, Geithner said that "depends on what
Congress does," and he warned lawmakers they could not take
investor confidence in the United States for granted.
Geithner dismissed notions that the threat of a default
would give Washington the incentive needed to rein in the U.S.
budget deficit, which is on track to top $1 trillion for the
fourth year in a row.
Instead he pointed to the simultaneous expiration of tax
breaks for nearly all Americans and the $1.2 trillion in
automatic budget cuts as "very powerful incentives" for
lawmakers to find a way to put the country on a sound fiscal
After the November presidential election, the Obama
administration and Congress will have less than two months to
make crucial decisions on taxes and the budget that could hinder
the country's economic recovery.