ABC News' Dan Arnall and Matthew Jaffe report:
The showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling and lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party threatening to not approve an increase in the more than $14 trillion limit won’t come to a head until tax day at the earliest, according to a new estimate from the Treasury Department.
“The Treasury Department now estimates that the United States will reach the debt limit between April 15, 2011 and May 31, 2011. As announced at the February Quarterly Refunding, Treasury will update this projection at the beginning of each month,” according to Mary Miller, Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Senate Republicans are pushing a bill that would force the government to make interest payments on the debt its top priority in the event that the debt limit is not raised later this year.
The bill, the brainchild of Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, and freshman Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA, is set to come up for a vote on Tuesday evening as an amendment to a patent reform bill, but it is extremely unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled chamber.
“As members of Congress debate whether to raise the US debt ceiling – the limit on our government’s debt – we should all agree on at least one thing: under no circumstances is it acceptable for the US to default on its debt. Not only are we morally obligated to honor our debts, but we benefit greatly from the nearly universal conviction that those who lend to us will always be repaid, on time and in full. We should never undermine that conviction,” Toomey wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month. “Fortunately even if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, a default on our debt need not follow when our borrowings reach their limit in the next few months.”
Today on the Senate floor Vitter touted the benefits of the bill.
“No one should want the US government to default on its debt,” Vitter said.
Democrats countered that it was unreasonable for Republicans to insist that the government pay holders of US debt – like the largest foreign-holder China for instance – before dealing with other costs such as taking care of troops. Democrats believe the debt limit should simply be raised, with no strings attached.