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Treasury: No, we won't mint $1 trillion platinum coin to avoid debt ceiling

A $1 trillion platinum coin will not be minted as a way of sidestepping the debt ceiling, the Treasury and the White House said Saturday.

The idea has been floated as a way to avoid a bruising fight in Congress over raising the ceiling. Among the proponents is Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

“By minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling — while doing no economic harm at all,” Krugman said in a column in The New York Times.

But the White House and the Treasury nixed that on Saturday.


"Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit," Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley said.

And the White House said in a statement issued by Press Secretary Jay Carney: "There are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or it can fail to act and put the nation into default. When Congressional Republicans played politics with this issue last time, putting us at the edge of default, it was a blow to our economic recovery, causing our nation's credit rating to be downgraded. ... Congress needs to do its job."

Proponents of the coin have said they want to avoid a repeat of the near-self-induced default by the U.S. Treasury in July 2011. That battle caused the stock market to fall, cost the U.S. its Triple-A credit rating and produced the still ticking “fiscal cliff" budget time bomb.

The government has hit its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, The Associated Press notes, and could begin running out of money by late February or early March.

On Friday, Senate Democratic leaders urged President Barack Obama to act unilaterally to increase the nation's debt limit, without congressional approval. But the White House has been loath to assert broad executive privilege to increase the amount of money the government is able to borrow in order to cover its obligations.

NBC News' John Schoen and Michael O'Brien contributed to this report.