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Debt Limit Coming a Month Earlier Than Expected (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:56 p.m. | The Treasury Department said Thursday it would reach the debt limit a bit earlier than was expected by many on Capitol Hill.  

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew told Congress in a new letter that thanks in part to lower-than-expected quarterly tax receipts, the extraordinary measures to forestall breaching the debt limit, combined with the new revenues, will run their course just a week after the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, takes effect.  

That makes it all the more likely the debt limit will need to be addressed before his departure.  

"Based on this new information, we now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures on or about Thursday, November 5," Lew wrote in a letter to Boehner. "At that point, we could be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand, which we currently forecast to be below $30 billion. This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion."  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was among the first to respond with a call for quick action.  

"Failure to protect the full faith and credit of the United States would have a devastating impact on hard-working families across the country – including tumbling retirement savings and rising interest rates for student loans, mortgages, credit cards and car payments," Pelosi said in a statement. "The Republican Congress must take the prospect of a catastrophic default off of the table.  The credit rating of the United States is not a hostage to serve Republicans’ toxic special interest ideology.  Yet time and again, the crisis-addicted Republican majority has threatened to shatter the foundation of our economy to advance their destructive partisan agenda."  

Lew said the date could still fluctuate somewhat from Nov. 5, but the letter makes clear that the situation is more urgent than anticipated by lawmakers and staffers who expected to be able to bundle a debt limit increase with an early-December spending package.  

"Without sufficient cash, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history," Lew wrote.  

In response to a query about Lew's latest letter, Boehner spokeswoman Emily Schillinger told CQ Roll Call, "We’ve received the Secretary's letter and will continue to review the issue."  

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

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