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story.lead_photo.caption This image provided by the U.S. Mint, the reverse of the 2021 American Eagle Platinum One Ounce Proof Coin - Freedom of Religion, is photographed in Washington. It would be the token of all tokens: a $1 trillion coin, minted by the U.S. government, then cashed in to flood the treasury with cash and solve a political impasse over suspending the debt limit. The idea is getting some attention in Washington as an Oct. 18 deadline approaches, with Democrats and Republicans deadlocked over how to stave off an unprecedented credit default. (Burwell and Burwell Photography/U.S. Mint via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some politicians think they’ve found a silver bullet for the impasse over the debt limit, except the bullet is made of platinum: Mint a $1 trillion coin, token of all tokens, and use it to flood the treasury with cash and drive Republicans crazy.

Even its serious proponents — who are not that many — call it a gimmick. They say it is an oddball way out of an oddball accounting problem that will have severe consequences to average people’s pocketbooks and the economy if it is not worked out in coming days.

But despite all the jokes about who should go on the face of the coin — Chuck E. Cheese? Donald Trump, to tempt or taunt the GOP? — there’s scholarship behind it, too. However improbable, it is conceivable the government could turn $1 trillion into a coin of the realm without lawmakers having a say.

How is this possible when the treasury secretary can’t simply print money to pay public debts? It’s because a quirky law from more than 20 years ago seems to allow the administration to mint coins of any denomination without congressional approval as long as they’re platinum.

The intent was to help with the production of commemorative coins for collectors, not to create a nuclear option in a fiscal crisis. Oops.

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