Trying to plan your 2017 vacation around the next federal debt ceiling standoff? Well, the Treasury Department can offer you no guidance—at least not yet.
The Treasury Department made available its debt managers—the people in charge of making sure there’s no default on the almost $19 trillion in public debt—for slightly more than eight minutes Wednesday as part of the department’s quarterly “refunding” process, where it sets up a series of high-profile debt auctions in the Nov. 7 week.
As part of that, Daleep Singh, the Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for financial markets, was asked by reporters how long into 2017 he expected Treasury could continue to borrow without another suspension or an increase in the debt ceiling.
“At this point it’s truly too early to give you an estimate on the length of extraordinary measures,” Singh said. “The fiscal flows in the first quarter are especially uncertain. That’s tax refund season. So we can’t give you a sense now of the length that those measures would have use.”
The current suspension of the debt ceiling is slated to expire in March 2017. In recent similar episodes, suspension periods that ended early in the year allowed Treasury to use its various accounting moves—Singh’s “extraordinary measures”—to buy enough time so that the “dropdead” date didn’t arrive until the fall.
The Bipartisan Policy Center has said it’s confident Treasury would have enough borrowing room until at least mid-summer 2017. Nancy Vanden Houten, senior research analyst with analytical firm Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, N.J., said her “ballparked” estimate was for late summer or early fall.
Of course, this all assumes there’s a Democratic president and a Republican Congress that will, as in the past, seek policy concessions in return for another suspension or a debt limit increase. If there should be unified government, Republican or Democrat, the next step in avoiding a debt default could actually be less dramatic.
And make vacation planning easier.
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