WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent a letter to congressional leaders late Monday warning them that the U.S. government could hit the $16.4 trillion federal debt ceiling as early as mid-February and urging them to increase the limit as soon as possible to avoid a disaster.

Geithner said it is impossible to provide a precise date because “we are entering the tax season, when the amounts and timing of tax payments are refunds are unpredictable.”

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