- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The U.S. Treasury Department will exhaust the special powers it’s using to avert a debt ceiling breach in the first half of March if Congress does not raise the country’s borrowing limit by then, the Congressional Budget Office reported Wednesday.

Congress temporarily suspended the debt limit in September, but it reset to $20.5 trillion on Dec. 9 and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin has since been using “extraordinary measures” to make sure the U.S. government continues to meet its obligations.

CBO said that absent an increase in the country’s borrowing limit, those measures “will be exhausted and the Treasury will most likely run out of cash in the first half of March 2018.”

In November, CBO had projected that Treasury would run out of money in late March or early April.

But the nonpartisan scorekeeper said Wednesday that it’s moving the deadline up after looking at anticipated effects from the recent $1.5 trillion tax law, as well as the government’s spending and revenue numbers from December.

CBO said due to the tax law, withheld amounts of individual income taxes will be $10 billion to $15 billion less per month than had been projected before Congress passed it in December.

Mr. Mnuchin urged lawmakers this week to increase the debt limit “as soon as possible,” and the Treasury Department said it expects to be able to fund the government through the end of February.

The early March timetable puts another must-pass item onto Congress’s to-do list, and could hand Democrats another leverage point in the ongoing budget debate if they want to engage Republicans in another shutdown showdown.

Increasing the debt ceiling is always a thorny issue for the party in power, and Republicans could need Democrats to supply some of the votes to do so in the coming weeks.

The government is already operating on another short-term spending bill through Feb. 8, after lawmakers battled through a three-day partial shutdown of the federal government earlier this month.

Democrats ultimately backed off on their demands for an immediate solution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for illegal immigrants, which is scheduled to phase out on March 5.

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