199 Days: Treasury Says Debt Has Been Frozen at $18,112,975,000,000

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 30, 2015 | 11:31 AM EDT

(AP Photo/J. David Ake)

(CNSNews.com) - The portion of the federal debt that is subject to a legal limit set by Congress closed Monday, Sept. 28, at $18,112,975,000,000, according to the latest Daily Treasury Statement, which was published at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

That, according to the Treasury's statements, makes 199 straight days the debt subject to the limit has been frozen at $18,112,975,000,000.

$18,112,975,000,000 is about $25 million below the current legal debt limit of $18,113,000,080,959.35.

Table III-C from the Daily Treasury Statement for Sept. 28, shows that the federal debt subject to the limit started the month at 8,112,975,000,000, started the day at 8,112,975,000,000 and ended the day at 8,112,975,000,000.

On Sept. 10, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent a letter to the leaders of Congress saying he believed the Treasury could continue in a “debt issuance suspension period” through at least the end of October.

That means the Treasury believes it can continue for at least the next month to issue Daily Treasury Statements that show the federal debt subject to the limit beginning and ending each day frozen just below that limit.

The so-called “debt issuance suspension period” Lew declared has allowed the Treasury to claim that the debt subject to the legal limit has been frozen every day for more than half a year even though both the federal deficit and the Treasury’s cash on hand have increased during that period.

At the end of March--the month in which Lew first declared the “debt issuance suspension period”--the Daily Treasury Statement said the federal government had $100,084,000,000 cash on hand. At the same time, the Monthly Treasury Statement for March said that at the end of that month Treasury’s cumulative deficit for fiscal 2015 was $439,473,000,000.

At the end of August, the Daily Treasury Statement said the federal government had $131,787,000,000 cash on hand--$31,703,000,000 more than at the end of March. Yet the Monthly Treasury Statement for August said that at the end of that month the cumulative deficit for the fiscal 2015 was $529,960,000,000—$90,487,000,000 more than at the end of March.

Thus, according to the U.S. Treasury’s official statements, it was able to engage in $90,487,000,000 in additional deficit spending between the end of March and the end of August, while increasing its cash on hand by $31,703,000,000—without increasing at all the debt subject to the legal limit.

Fiscal year 2015 ends today and the Senate this morning passed a considering resolution that will fund the government until Dec. 11--but does not change the debt limit. The House will consider the CR this afternoon.

The Daily Treasury Statement for March 13 was the first to show the debt subject to the limit closing the day at $18,112,975,000,000. Every Daily Treasury Statement since then has reported the same thing: the debt closing the day at $18,112,975,000,000.

Every Daily Treasury Statement since Monday, March 16, has also reported the debt beginning and ending each day at $18,112,975,000,000.

Table III-C on the Daily Treasury Statement for Sept. 28 says the debt began the month of September at $18,112,975,000,000, began the day of Sept. 28 at $18,112,975,000,000, and closed the day of Sept. 28 at $18,112,975,000,000.

On March 13, Treasury Secretary Lew sent an initial letter to House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders informing them that he was planning to declare a “debt issuance suspension period.”

“Beginning on Monday, March 16, the outstanding debt of the United States will be at the statutory limit,” Lew said in that letter. “In anticipation of reaching that date, Treasury has suspended until further notice the issue of State and Local Government Series securities, which count against the debt limit.”

“Because Congress has not yet acted to raise the debt limit,” Lew said in that letter, “the Treasury Department will have to employ further extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis. Therefore, beginning on March 16, I plan to declare a ‘debt issuance suspension period’ with respect to investment of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and also suspend the daily reinvestment of Treasury securities held by the Government Securities Investment Fund and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.”

In his Sept. 10 letter, Lew informed Congress of additional “extraordinary measure” the Treasury was taking to allow it to report that the debt subject to the limit was frozen.

“Since my previous letter, I have taken additional action to implement the  extraordinary measures that allow us, on a temporary basis, to continue paying the nation's bills,” said Lew. “Specifically, on August 31, I suspended, as necessary, the daily reinvestment of the portion of the Exchange Stabilization Fund that is invested in Treasury securities.”

“Each of the measures employed to date,” said Lew, “is authorized by law, and each has been used during past debt limit impasses.”

The Treasury has also posted Frequently Asked Question sheets that explain the actions the Treasury takes during a “debt issuance suspension period” and their statutory basis.