In a letter to the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, the President wrote:
This letter is to ask for your help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt.
As [the Treasury Secretary] has told you, the Treasury’s cash balances have reached a dangerously low point. Henceforth the Treasury Department cannot guarantee that the Federal Government will have sufficient cash on any one day to meet all of its mandated expenses, and thus the United States could be forced to default on its obligations for the first time in history.
This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.
I want to thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent problem, and for your assistance in passing an extenstion of the debt ceiling.
True then. Still true now.
Letter from President Ronald Reagan to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tennessee, November 16, 1983. The Treasury Secretary at the time was Donald Regan.
Tip of the old scrub brush to mainstream media pillar, The Washington Post, where a .pdf of the letter is available.