Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One, as President Barack Obama traveled to Pittsburgh to talk about his plans for "myRA" savings accounts to help more U.S. workers save for retirement, Lew said he notified Congress last week of the Feb. 7 deadline, saying the Treasury Department's ability to use extraordinary measures to pay obligations "will run out at the end of February in all likelihood, and that they needed to act in that window because it was the only responsible thing to do."
"I think they have accepted the deadline," he said. "All the discussions that I've had and the things that I've read show that they understand that they need to do something by the end of February. And I think they also understand that there's not going to be any kind of a negotiation or a ransom paid for Congress to do what it needs to do, which is pay the bills that it's already committed to."
Lew took issue with an argument congressional opponents of raising the borrowing limit use when they characterize it as a "blank check" for the administration.
"All the debt limit does is it gives us the ability to pay the bills that are already incurred," he said. "And since 1789, Congress has always done the right thing and they need to do it again."