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Treasury sec: Congress needs to act to avoid crisis

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

Just eight years after America's financial crisis, the world is once again looking to the U.S. for economic leadership, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Thursday. But he warned that confidence could disappear quickly if Congress falters with economic issues.

The "big question is, do we have the political will?" Lew said, using the looming debt ceiling as an exemplary hurdle. He also named funding for infrastructure spending and an extension of the Export-Import Bank as other challenges facing congressional leaders.

"Congress needs to act or we could be faced with a crisis," Lew said. He made the comments Thursday at an International Monetary Fund meeting in Lima, Peru. "We have the capacity, but do we have the will?"

Divisions among congressional leadership been pervasive for years, and many issues remain contentious. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Treasury Department supports, faced a setback this week when Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came out against the massive international trade proposal.

"We are committed to getting the votes," a senior Treasury official told CNBC.