Updated at 5:45 p.m.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has written to congressional leaders once again to ask that they raise the debt limit before the U.S. runs out of borrowing authority on Feb. 7.
But he also said that the Treasury Department will only be able to avoid a default until late February by using so-called “extraordinary measures,” increasing the urgency of his last note to Congress in December. Then, he said the department would not exhaust extraordinary measures until late February or early March.
“The length of time that the extraordinary measures can extend the nation's borrowing authority is significantly shorter than it was in 2011 and 2013. This is in large part because the government experiences large net cash outflows in the month of February, due to tax refunds,” Lew wrote. “Moreover, this year the payment of tax refunds will be particularly concentrated in the weeks after February 7 due to the delayed start of the tax filing season, which was caused by the government shutdown.”
There will likely be a battle between the White House and congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, as there has been for the past several years. The president has insisted it he will not allow larger budget negotiations to occur around a debt ceiling vote, but Republicans are likely to seek some sort of policy concession like spending cuts or passage of the Keystone XL pipeline.
"The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won't pass in the House," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "We hope and expect the White House will work with us on a timely, fiscally-responsible solution."