WASHINGTON — With Congress and President Barack Obama possibly heading to another showdown over raising the nation's debt ceiling, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday pleaded for lawmakers to "take away any cloud of uncertainty about the ability of the United States to pay its bills."
"It's not okay to default," he said on ABC's This Week.
"I would certainly hope that Congress isn't looking to create confrontations and false crises because we did see, in 2011, how bad that is for the American economy," he said. He was referring to the partisan standoff, resolved at the last minute, that led Standard & Poor's to downgrade the nation's credit rating for the first time, from AAA to AA+.
A number of congressional Republicans want to impose conditions for raising the government's $16.7 trillion debt limit. Some have insisted on deeper spending cuts while others want concessions from the president on other policy issues.
The government can make it through Labor Day before needing to raise the debt limit as the Treasury Department uses "extraordinary measures" to pay its bills, Lew said on CNN's State of the Union.
The Congressional Budget Office has said the debt limit will not need to be raised until October or November.
"Congress shouldn't wait until the last minute," Lew said. "They should just raise the debt limit and take away any cloud of uncertainty about the ability of the United States to pay its bills."