U.S. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday lawmakers will not consider raising the debt ceiling until April 15, the first date on which the Treasury Department warns it could reach the $14.3 trillion statutory limit.
"We really don't know exactly when the date will be that we'll have to act," Cantor said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"You know, we're waiting for April 15 and tax revenues to indicate exactly when the date is that the ceiling needs to be raised," he added. April 15 is traditionally the deadline for Americans to file their tax returns.
His remarks came a day after the Treasury Department said it now anticipates reaching the debt ceiling between April 15 and May 31. Previously, the department had said it could hit the ceiling as early as April 5.
Some Republicans, including Tea Party conservatives, have said they will not vote to allow the United States to go deeper into debt without agreement on controlling spending with President Barack Obama and Democrats.
"Along with that vote, we're going to see a lot of things put in place, whether they be process reforms as far as the budget is concerned, spending caps, whether we can demonstrate that we are tightening the belt this fiscal year," Cantor said.
"Those are all the kinds of things we're going to have to do prior to seeing that that vote happens," he added.
The Republican-run House has passed a budget bill for the current fiscal year that includes $61 billion in spending cuts, but the majority Democrats in the Senate say the cuts would endanger the economic recovery.
Analysts warn that hitting the debt limit could force federal offices to shut down, threaten payments for Social Security and other benefits and risk a default that would cause long-term damage to U.S. access to debt markets.
On Tuesday, the Senate blocked Republican legislation that would have prioritized Treasury Department actions in case borrowing authority were exhausted.
The measure would have required that government revenues be used for two things if the statutory debt ceiling were reached without congressional action to raise it: interest payments on U.S. government debt and Social Security retirement benefit checks. Most other government programs would go unfunded under the plan. (Editing by Eric Beech)