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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A trillion-dollar platinum coin could be minted "within hours of the Treasury Secretary's decision to do so," Philip Diehl, former director of the United States Mint, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Congressional solutions to the debt-ceiling problem could take weeks to implement, especially if the reconciliation process is used — and time is running out. In case of emergency, a trillion-dollar coin could be deployed to bridge any gap between the money running out and the debt ceiling being raised.

How it works: The U.S. Mint, which Diehl ran from 1994 to 2000, already produces a one-ounce Platinum Eagle and has no shortage of platinum blanks already in stock.

  • Producing a trillion-dollar Eagle would require only the denomination to be changed. "This could be quickly executed on the existing plaster mold of the Platinum Eagle," says Diehl. Then an automated process would transfer the new design to a plastic resin mold.

Even if Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, has no intention of minting such a coin, there is no reason for her not to quietly instruct the Mint director to take those steps a day or two in advance.

  • At that point, a coin could be struck in minutes at the West Point mint. Even if it then needed to be physically deposited at the New York Fed, that's only a short helicopter ride away.

"Voila, we'd have bought ourselves the equivalent of a trillion-dollar increase in the debt limit, without any impact on inflation," says Diehl.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House approves one-time, fast track process to raise debt limit

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill, 222-212, that would allow Senate Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own in an expedited process.

Why it matters: The move helps Congress avoid a messy and arduous process and clears the way for the Senate — which will still need to pass the bill — to raise the debt ceiling before Dec. 15, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. will default on its debts.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker