By Sean Cockerham
McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON --Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congress on Friday that the nation is likely to run short of money to pay its bills by Feb. 27 unless lawmakers agree to pass an increase in the debt limit.
“If Treasury has insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for our nation to meet all of its obligations for the first time in history,” Lew wrote in the letter to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
House Republicans, though, aren’t prepared to raise the debt limit without demanding concessions from the White House and Congressional Democrats.
The borrowing authority granted by Congress expired on Friday and the Department of Treasury now has to use “extraordinary measures “ to pay the nation’s bills, Lew wrote in his letter to Boehner.
The beginning of tax refund season means such measures can’t last beyond the end of the month, he wrote.
“It is difficult to forecast with any certainty when Treasury will exhaust its borrowing capacity. Based on our best and most recent information, however, we are not confident that the extraordinary measures will last beyond Thursday, February 27,” Lew wrote.
Lew urged Boehner to move quickly on the debt limit to “provide certainty to the economy and to the financial markets.”
“Extraordinary measures are likely to be exhausted in less than three weeks. Congress is scheduled to be out of session for part of that time, and it would be a mistake to wait until the last possible minute to act,” Lew wrote the House speaker.
Boehner said Thursday that he has no desire to bring the nation to the financial cliff, but he is also not prepared to raise the debt limit without getting something in return.
“We do not want to default on our debt, and we’re not going to default on our debt. We’re in discussions with our members about how we can move ahead,” Boehner told reporters.
The Republicans have had a hard time agreeing on what their demands should be.
Regardless of what the Republicans decide to demand, the White House and Congressional Democrats say they aren’t willing to negotiate or give any concessions in return for raising the debt limit.
“This is not a matter of negotiation. This is the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.