WASHINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday urged Congress to raise the debt limit as soon as possible to avoid a potential federal government default.
"I respectfully urge Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible," Mnuchin said in a letter sent to Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress.
Mnuchin warned that beginning Thursday, the federal government's outstanding debt was at the statutory limit. It means the Treasury has no room to borrow under standard operating procedures from Thursday.
In order to temporarily prevent the government from defaulting on its obligations, the Treasury begun using "extraordinary measures" to continue to finance the government's activities, said Mnuchin.
These extraordinary measures could help the Treasury have sufficient cash to make essential payments "until sometime in the fall of this year" without an increase in the debt limit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
At that time, the Treasury will have exhausted extraordinary measures and would need to borrow more money to avoid a government debt default.
The debt limit is the maximum amount of debt that the Treasury can issue to the public and to the other federal agencies. The amount of outstanding debt subject to limit has now risen to about 19.9 trillion U.S. dollars.