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Policymakers Face Debt Ceiling Crunch After Treasury Forecasts June “X Date”

  • May 5, 2023
Capitol building

Pressure on Congress and the White House ratcheted up this week after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the U.S. could default on its $31.4 trillion debt as early as June 1. President Joe Biden will meet on May 9 with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to discuss raising the US debt limit and Republican concerns about federal spending levels. (Treasury letter, May 1 | Bloomberg and New York Times, May 2)

Looming Deadline

  • The estimated date that Treasury will run out of money to pay its bills is called the “X date.” Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told the Senate Budget Committee yesterday that the best case scenario for hitting the X date is August 8 and the worst is June 1. (BGOV, May 5)

  • Zandi testified, “The Treasury debt limit drama is heating up and is sure to get much hotter in coming weeks as we have a better understanding of the 2023 tax filing season and the actual X-date.”

  • Zandi also noted how a debt ceiling extension could be combined with annual budget talks. “If the X-date is as soon as early June, it seems a stretch for lawmakers to come to terms fast enough, and they instead will decide to pass legislation suspending the limit long enough to line the X-date up with the end of fiscal 2023 at the end of September. This will buy time and combine the debt limit decision with the federal government’s fiscal 2024 budget, which is also must-do legislation for lawmakers to ensure the government is funded and avoids a shutdown,” Zandi stated. (Senate Budget Committee hearing, May 4)

  • Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young suggested this week that the White House may be open to a short-term debt ceiling extension. “I’m sure one of the things on the table we will have to work through is how long. I’m not going to take anything off the table,” Young said. (Reuters and The Hill, May 4)

Policy issues related to raising the debt ceiling and CRE market conditions will be discussed be during The Roundtable’s all-member meeting on June 13-14 in Washington, DC.

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