WASHINGTON Nov 20 The United States could start
missing payments on its obligations some time between March and
June if lawmakers don't raise a legal limit on borrowing by
early February, congressional analysts said on Wednesday.
The Obama administration was able to bump against the
government's debt ceiling for five months this year before it
came to the brink of default.
Obama signed into law a bill last month that suspended a
$16.7 trillion cap on the national debt until Feb. 7, when it
will reset to whatever level the debt has reached.
Absent a decision to raise it again, the Treasury Department
has tools to manage its cash a little longer before it starts
It is unclear how much time those tools can buy, but the
Congressional Budget Office said in a report that the government
could run out of cash as early as March.
"However, the timing and magnitude of tax refunds and
receipts ... could shift that date of exhaustion into May or
June," the CBO said in a report.
The CBO's estimated dates were broadly in line with
estimates made by private sector budget experts.
This year, the Treasury bumped up against the debt ceiling
in May but was able keep under it for another five months by
doing things like stopping investments in some pension funds for
federal workers. These steps are known in Washington as the
Treasury's "extraordinary measures."
They give the Treasury a buffer against an economically
damaging default, and CBO noted that Washington will have the
same tools available in 2014.