Mar 24, 2017

Steve Mnuchin: Debt ceiling is a "ridiculous concept"

Uwe Anspach/DPA

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin argued that the debt ceiling is a "somewhat ridiculous concept" during a discussion with Mike Allen at the debut of Axios' News Shapers event series Friday morning. "This isn't limit of what we can spend," he said, '"it's a payment limitation." He again called on Congress to raise the debt limit before summer recess.

Technically, he's right: The debt limit was invented nearly 100 years ago to free Congress from having to approve each new debt issuance. Instead, it gives Treasury the freedom to issue debt up to a certain level to make the financing of already approved spending more efficient.

But out of step with Republicans: Budget hawks see the debt ceiling as the only tool left in their belt for fighting the automatic growth of entitlement spending approved by previous Congresses. If the debate over healthcare is any indication, far right members of Congress will demand significant budgetary sacrifices to vote to allow the issuance of more debt.

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Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers and South Korea sees first death

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship. South Korea also announced its first death Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 75,465 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

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SoftBank to cut its stake to get T-Mobile's Sprint deal done

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

T-Mobile and Sprint announced a revised merger agreement that will see SoftBank getting a smaller share of the combined company, while most shareholders will receive the previously agreed upon exchange rate. The companies said they hope to get the deal as early as April 1.

Why it matters: The amended deal reflects the decline in Sprint's business, while leaving most shareholders' stake intact and removing another hurdle to the deal's closure.