Treasury using final tools to avoid debt limit, Lew says

WASHINGTON Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said late Tuesday that he has now begun using all the extraordinary measures at his disposal to avoid hitting the debt ceiling.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Lew said that he started to use the final three bookkeeping tools available to provide borrowing room for paying the nation's bills. Lew said that there are no other "legal and prudent" options for extending the borrowing authority.

Lew said that his assessment of the date he will run out of maneuvering room had not changed from last week. Lew told Congress on Sept. 25 that the extraordinary measures would be exhausted no later than Oct. 17 and at that time the government would have about $30 billion in cash on hand.

"I respectfully urge Congress to act immediately to meet its responsibility," wrote Lew, to extend the government's borrowing authority.

Lew said insufficient funds could lead to a Treasury default for the "first time in our history."

Meantime, Wall Street is looking past the congressional impasse responsible for the current government shutdown and readying for the next political flash point: Congress' upcoming debate over the debt ceiling.

"This is a routine vote," President Obama said at a Rose Garden event Tuesday. "All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent."

If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit and forces "the United States to default on its obligations for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown," Mr. Obama said. "It would be an economic shutdown."

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