Now, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned Congress tomorrow, the 17th of October, is the day the government will likely have only about $30 billion on hand, which sounds like a lot. But sometimes, daily expenditures get a lot higher than that. This does not mean the government will default tomorrow if Congress does not act. As NPR's John Ydstie reports, the U.S. could manage to get through the next few days. But without a deal, the threat of default rises sharply next week.
The possibility of an American default on its debt is huge news across the continent. Europe is barely emerging from its own debt crisis. Europe's recovery rests on demand for its exports and the U.S. is by far the European Union's largest export market.
This could be the last day the United States is assured of its borrowing authority. Congress could forestall this crisis by raising the debt ceiling, as it has roughly a hundred times before. But the debt ceiling is tied to the same confrontation that's kept much of the federal government shut down.