Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Nation will default if debt ceiling isn't raised

Lew warns that Congress is "playing with fire"

Published October 6, 2013 2:23PM (EDT)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who is making the rounds on Sunday's political talk shows, warned that the nation will default unless Congress raises its $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by Oct. 17.

"If the United States government, for the first time in its history, chooses not to pay its bills on time, we will be in default," explained Lew on CNN's "State of the Union." "There is no option that prevents us from being in default if we don't have enough cash to pay our bills."

According to Lew, the government has about $30 billion in cash, which is not a "responsible amount of cash to run the government on."

"I'm telling you that on the 17th, we run out of our ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire," Lew said.

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Congress Debt Ceiling Default Economy Jack Lew