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Debt Ceiling Nears as Budget Talks Stymied

Wall Street Journal (12/27/12) Damian Paletta; Janet Hook; Carol E. Lee

The U.S. Treasury Department expects the federal government to reach the national borrowing limit of $16.394 trillion on Dec. 31, which will trigger a set of emergency measures to keep the government operational for several weeks and put off a debt crisis until February or March 2013. In a two-paragraph letter to Congress, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did not specify when emergency measures would be exhausted, noting that “significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013.”

The White House and congressional leaders have shown no signs of progress toward crafting an agreement to avoid the year-end tax increases and spending cuts. A narrow deal to avert that outcome—a plausible result—might not include an agreement to raise the $16.394 trillion debt ceiling, as Democrats have pressed, meaning the big, unresolved questions over how the federal government should raise and spend money are likely to come to the fore as the debt deadline draws near. Geithner said it is unclear whether or not the 2012 tax-filing season will be delayed, though many political leaders are looking at blocking tax increases for most Americans and either postponing or replacing scheduled spending cuts.