America's date with the debt limit just got moved up. Technically, the U.S. government hit that limit — the statutory cap on how much total debt it can have outstanding — back in mid-March. But in a dance that's become standard procedure recently, the Treasury Department can use a grab bag of financial delaying tactics to provide a grace period. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew previously said that bag of tricks would run out on Nov. 5.
Well, scratch that: Now he says we'll run out Nov. 3.
Treasury has been keeping an eye on government revenue and expenditures, "and our projections for the relevant period have declined an additional $4-6 billion" Lew wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
"At that point, we expect Treasury would be left with less than $30 billion to meet all of the nation's commitments — an amount far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion."
Boehner is set to leave the speakership, though a replacement has not been found, and he's trying to get an extension of the debt limit passed before the new speaker arrives. Some quarters of the GOP deeply oppose raising the debt limit without counterbalancing cuts in government spending, and Democrats oppose anything other than a "clean" debt limit hike. So the extension will almost certainly require a rare bipartisan coalition in the House. Jeff Spross