(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank doesn’t possess the ability to shield financial markets or the U.S. economy from severe damage should Congress fail to lift the nation’s debt limit in coming weeks and precipitate a default on government obligations.

“It’s just very important that the debt ceiling be raised in a timely fashion so that the United States can pay its bills when and as they come due,” Powell said Wednesday in a virtual press conference following a meeting of the Fed’s interest-rate setting panel.

“The failure to do that is something that could result in severe damage to the economy and to financial markets and it’s just not something we should contemplate,” he said. “No one should assume the Fed or anyone else can fully protect the markets or the economy in the event of a failure.”

Read more: Democrats Pursue Doomed Debt Move, With Emergency Option in Hand

The government’s statutory debt limit kicked in at $28.4 trillion at the beginning of August following a two-year suspension, forcing the Treasury Department to employ so-called extraordinary measures to avoid breaching the ceiling. The Treasury has since been running down its cash balance, and Secretary Janet Yellen has said the department will run out of money some time in October.

Democrats this week are pursuing an almost certainly doomed attempt to pass a bill that would fund the government through the end of the year and suspend the debt ceiling for a year. Republicans have pledged to block the legislation in the Senate, and an alternate Democrats-only plan would be time consuming.

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