Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congress on Thursday that it must raise the debt ceiling by Nov. 3 in order to guarantee that the government will be able to avoid a default on the debt.
Lew's letter makes the debt ceiling a more urgent matter than it already was for Congress. Previously, Lew had warned that he would exhaust the "extraordinary measures" he's using to make payments under the $18.1 trillion debt limit on Nov. 5. Now, he warned, he expects to be left with no resources except for $30 billion in cash after Nov. 3, less than three weeks away.
Lew's message will increase the pressure on outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to raise the debt ceiling before his planned retirement at the end of October. Republicans have yet to select a new speaker after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., bowed out of the race, which means Republicans may be hamstrung in dealing with the debt ceiling until they find a new leader.
Complicating it further, many conservative members of the House won't want to raise the debt ceiling unless it's part of a deal to cut spending further.
Lew has been managing government accounts to pay incoming bills without raising the debt ceiling since March, when a previous suspension of the debt ceiling ended.