NEW YORK, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A top U.S. Treasury Department official said on Tuesday the prime status of U.S. government bonds in financial markets hinges on approval by federal lawmakers to increase the government's current $18.1 trillion legal borrowing limit.
"If Treasuries are to remain the gold standard, regular and prolonged debates in Congress over whether to raise the debt limit - whether to pay our bills - must become a thing of the past," said Antonio Weiss, counselor to the Treasury Secretary, in a prepared speech at a conference at the New York Federal Reserve.
The Treasury has been reducing the size of its weekly bill auctions in anticipation of the government exhausting its ability to borrow around Nov. 3 without Congress authorizing an increase in its statutory debt limit.
"The strain this creates is a real, and unnecessary, cost," Weiss said of the drop in T-bill issuance.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama