Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Sunday that "brinksmanship" over the debt ceiling would hurt the American economy but placed responsibility firmly with Congress for finding a solution to the budget standoff.
"Drawing this to brinksmanship is a mistake," Lew said in his first interview on NBC's Meet the Press since taking the top Treasury post. "It's bad for the economy for it to be brinksmanship. The job needs to get done."
Lew would not say whether the administration's strategy to push Congress to approve government funding bills could result in a federal shutdown this fall, but he reiterated that the administration will not negotiate over the country's borrowing limit.
"What we have said is Congress needs to get its work done," he said. "It needs to fund the kinds of things the American middle class need. And we need to get the debt limit extended in a way that doesn't create a crisis. That is what every Congress needs to do. And Congress needs to do it when it gets back in September.
Republicans in Congress hope to use the debate over the debt ceiling to extract additional spending cuts. Lew said that any solution to the budget standoff cannot fix cuts to the military implemented by sequestration at the expense of domestic programs.
"To be clear, what the president said-- and has written to Congress is that they cannot fix the problems created by the across-the-board cuts -- known as sequestration -- by cutting domestic priorities in order to fund defense," he said. "That's unacceptable. He won't sign that."
A group of Senate conservatives have said they will oppose any spending bill that funds the president's health care overhaul.
But the lawmaker leading that group, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, said on Fox News Sunday that a government shutdown is unlikely despite threats that no funding bills will be passed.
"We all know the government is going to get funded," Lee said Sunday. "The only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without."
First published July 28 2013, 8:18 AM