TIME Treasury

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Warns Time Is Running Out To Lift Debt Ceiling

Says U.S. will be unable to pay its bills past end of February if Congress doesn't raise debt ceiling

The Treasury Department will run out of “extraordinary measures” to keep the government afloat by the end of February if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement Monday.

The temporary suspension of the debt limit passed by Congress last year expires Feb. 7, but Lew warned that the Treasury would only be able to stave off a government default using “extraordinary measures”—accounting maneuvers such as deferring trust fund investments—for a “brief span of time.”

“We now forecast that we are likely to exhaust these measures by the end of the month,” Lew said.

The statement calls on Congress to act quickly to increase the debt limit so that the government can borrow the money it needs to keep functioning, and warns that delayed action could have serious financial consequences. Last year’s debt stand-off caused a plummet in consumer confidence and rattled financial markets. Lew also warned that only Congress can increase the government’s borrowing authority, and “no Congress in the history of the United States has failed to meet this responsibility.”

Anticipating a Republican argument that raising the debt limit should be tied to spending cuts, Lew reminds Congress that the debt limit is about “paying bills that have already been incurred,” and that refusing to raise the ceiling won’t make the bills go away. The statement also reminds Congressional Republicans that House Speaker John Boehner said that not only should the U.S. never default on debt, we “shouldn’t even get close to it.”


Queen Elizabeth’s Courtiers Urged To Tighten Royal Belt

A baker poses with a marzipan mosaic of Britain's Queen Elizabeth in the City of London
A baker poses with a marzipan mosaic of Queen Elizabeth II at Konditor and Cook in London on May 3, 2012. Olivia Harris / Reuters

Staff told to ease spending as Queen Elizabeth's reserve fund sinks to 'historic low' of $1.6 million

Correction appended 1.10pm Jan.28

Advisers to Queen Elizabeth II have widely overspent and failed at controlling her finances, according to a parliamentary committee report issued this week. The queen’s reserve fund sank from more than $58 million in 2001 to a “historic low” of $1.6 million at the end of last year.

The Queen’s household overspent her annual budget of $51 million by about $3.8 million last year. The imprudent courtiers were advised to take money-saving tips from the Treasury, the government’s finance ministry.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee noted that the royal palaces were “crumbling,” the Daily Telegraph reports, and said the Treasury needed to “get a grip” to help the royal household protect them from “further damage and deterioration.”

Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are reported to be below “acceptable condition,” said Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, and more cash is needed to address serious maintenance issues with at least 39 royal buildings overall.

“We believe that the Treasury has a duty to be actively involved in reviewing the household’s financial planning and management—and it has failed to do so,” she added.

[Daily Telegraph]

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the amount left in the Queen’s reserve fund.

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