US Treasury buys time for debt limit deal

The U.S. government bumped up against its debt limit Thursday, prompting the Treasury Department to take “extraordinary” accounting steps to avoid default, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The Treasury Department said in a letter to congressional leaders it had started taking “extraordinary measures” as the government had run up against its legal borrowing capacity of $31.381 trillion. An artificially imposed cap, the debt ceiling has been increased roughly 80 times since the 1960s. It does not reflect the actual capacity of the federal government to borrow, simply how much it is legally able to do so without congressional signoff.

In order to keep the government open, the Treasury Department on Thursday was making a series of accounting maneuvers that would put a hold on contributions and investment redemptions for government workers’ retirement and health care funds, giving the government enough financial space to handle its day-to-day expenses until roughly June.