U.S. debt limit wrangling could cause ‘accident’: Treasury’s Lew

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Wednesday he is worried that brinkmanship in Congress on raising the nation’s debt limit could cause an “accident” as the United States edges closer toward default.

Speaking at a policy conference in Washington, Lew also said the risk of an unforeseen circumstance would rise if Congress did not act in time, adding that the debt limit issue should not be used as a weapon in negotiations on a separate budget deal.

The United States is currently scraping just under its $18 trillion legal debt cap and the Treasury Department expects to exhaust its borrowing authority by Nov. 3.

“What I am most worried about … is an accident, and accidents can happen when you play this last-minute brinkmanship game,” Lew said.

“The deadline is very real,” he added.

On Tuesday, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives mulled proposing a bill to increase the debt limit that would also impose strict new controls on federal spending that Democrats have long opposed.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner is due to retire from Congress on Oct. 30, further complicating negotiations.

Lew has repeatedly warned of the economic calamity that could result from the United States missing payments.

The Treasury faced that problem in 2011 and 2013 when Congress delayed increasing the borrowing limit.


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