Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has written House Speaker John Boehner to warn that unless Congress raises the debt limit, the United States of America is going to start bouncing checks.

On Oct. 17, Lew explained, the U.S. will have $30 billion in cash, half the amount the country sometimes spends in a single day. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the date could be closer to the end of October.

“The president remains willing to negotiate over the future direction of fiscal policy, but he will not negotiate over whether the United States will pay its bills for past commitments,” said Lew, as quoted by The New York Times.

The president is currently negotiating with congressional Republicans on a range of budget issues, but the most pressing concern is the debt limit, which allows the U.S. to borrow additional funds to cover its existing obligations. Unless Congress raises the debt limit, the government is legally prohibited from borrowing money.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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