Treasury Head Says Congress ‘Playing with Fire’ on Debt Ceiling

Country reaches borrowing limit on Oct. 17

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Sunday that Republicans are “playing with fire” by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling this month.

“I’m telling you that on [Oct. 17], we run out of our ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire,” Lew said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Republicans in Congress don’t want to raise the statutory borrowing limit without accompanying cuts in spending, but President Barack Obama and Democrats have said they won’t negotiate over borrowing money to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized. Economists are warning of cataclysmic and global economic consequences if the country defaults on debt payments.

“If they don’t extend the debt limit, we have a very, very short window of time before those scenarios start to be played out,” Lew said.