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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.

3 mins ago - World

Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.