Janet Yellen warns if debt ceiling isn’t raised in just over a week, U.S. could face default


Debt limit negotiators seemingly miles apart

Debt limit negotiators seemingly miles apart as default deadline nears


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress in a letter Monday that the U.S. government might not be able to pay the bills in just over a week — as early as June 1 — if Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling.

Her letter came as President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were to meet at the White House to continue negotiations over a debt limit deal, amid escalating concerns that the U.S. could default on the nation’s debts for the first time if Congress does not act in time. 

“With an additional week of information now available, I am writing to note that we estimate that it is highly likely that Treasury will no longer be able to satisfy all of the government’s obligations if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by early June, and potentially as early as June 1,” Yellen wrote Monday.

The treasury secretary has been regularly updating Congress on when the U.S. could run out of borrowing authority. The department has been closely tracking funds coming in from tax receipts coming in and money going out to pay the nation’s bills.

On Jan. 19, the U.S. reached its statutory debt limit of $31.4 trillion, and the Treasury Department has been paying the bills with so-called extraordinary measures, like putting a hold on contributions to government workers’ retirement and health care funds. This has given the government enough financial capacity to handle expenses until about June.

When does the debt ceiling need to be raised?

Yellen’s latest warning on Monday closely aligned with her letter last week, in which she said that the U.S. was at risk of default as soon as June 1 or could run out of money within days or weeks if Congress does not address the debt limit.

In an interview on Sunday with NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Yellen called early June a “hard deadline” on the debt limit. She also said the government’s ability to make it until June 15, when more tax payments are due, was “quite low.” 

Revenue levels are being closely monitored by the financial sector. Last week, the Treasury had roughly $68 billion in cash on hand and another $92 billion in untapped extraordinary measures at its disposal. 

Yellen warned on Monday that the timeline was based on “currently available data, and federal receipts, outlays, and debt could vary from these estimates.”

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