Debt limit likely hit by end of year, Treasury says

Jacquelyn Martin/AP file photo

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it expects the U.S. debt limit will be reached by the end of 2012, but that it can use so-called "extraordinary measures" to push the actual date of potential default to early 2013.

The timetable is the same as Treasury laid out earlier this year.

"Treasury continues to expect the debt limit to be reached near the end of 2012. However, Treasury has the authority to take certain extraordinary measures to give Congress more time to act to ensure we are able to meet the legal obligations of the United States of America," Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets Matthew Rutherford said in a statement. "We continue to expect that these extraordinary measures would provide sufficient 'headroom' under the debt limit to allow the government to continue to meet its obligations until early in 2013."

If the debt limit follows Treasury's timetable, Congress won't have to come up with an agreement to raise the country's borrowing limit until after they tackle the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in on Jan. 2 if lawmakers fail to take action. However, discussions of raising the debt limit—which were highly contentious in the summer of 2011—could be intertwined with debate over how to prevent the fiscal cliff.

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