What Is the U.S. National Debt Ceiling?

What Is the Debt Ceiling?

The debt ceiling is the utmost sum of money that the USA can borrow cumulatively by issuing bonds. The debt ceiling was created below the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 and is also referred to as the debt restrict or statutory debt restrict. If U.S. authorities nationwide debt ranges bump up towards the ceiling, the Treasury Division should resort to different extraordinary measures to pay authorities obligations and expenditures till the ceiling is raised once more.

The debt ceiling has been raised or suspended quite a few occasions over time to keep away from the worst-case situation, which might be a default by the U.S. authorities on its debt.

Key Takeaways

  • The debt ceiling is the utmost quantity that the U.S. authorities can borrow by issuing bonds.
  • The Treasury Division should discover different methods to pay bills when the debt ceiling is reached in any other case, there’s a threat the U.S. will default on its debt.
  • The debt ceiling has been raised or suspended a number of occasions to keep away from the chance of default.
  • There have been quite a lot of showdowns over the debt ceiling, a few of which have led to authorities shutdowns.
  • Shutdowns are the results of battle between the White Home and Congress, with the debt ceiling used as leverage to push budgetary agendas.

Understanding The Debt Ceiling

Understanding the Debt Ceiling

Congress had free reign over the nation’s funds earlier than the debt ceiling was created. In 1917, the debt ceiling was created throughout World Struggle I to make the federal authorities fiscally accountable. Over time, the debt ceiling has been raised at any time when the USA has approached the restrict. By hitting the restrict and failing to pay curiosity funds to bondholders, the USA can be in default, decreasing its credit standing and growing the price of its debt.

See also  Medicare Supplement Insurance

There was controversy over whether or not the debt ceiling is constitutional. In keeping with the 14th Modification of the Structure, “the validity of the general public debt of the USA, licensed by legislation…shall not be questioned.” Nearly all of democratic international locations wouldn’t have a debt ceiling, making the USA one of many few exceptions.

$31.4 trillion

The approximate quantity of the present U.S. debt ceiling, as set by the Congressional vote on Dec. 15, 2021, and signed into legislation by President Biden on December 16 of the identical 12 months. The sum represents a $2.5 trillion enhance within the ceiling.

Benefits and Disadvantages of the Debt Ceiling

Implementing a debt ceiling is sensible, permitting the U.S. Treasury to simply difficulty bonds with out having Congress approve it each time the federal authorities wants to lift cash—a reasonably cumbersome course of. With a debt ceiling, the boundaries are in place for a extra environment friendly financial approval course of.

Nonetheless, the debt ceiling has notoriously been fluid and raised a couple of occasions, elevating questions on whether or not it is efficient as a instrument to make sure fiscal duty. The U.S. has reached record-high ranges of debt over time.


  • Holds the nation’s funds in examine

  • Can be utilized to fund federal operations

  • Improves effectivity within the authorities’s capacity to fund obligations together with Social Safety and Medicare advantages

Debt Ceiling Showdowns and Shutdowns

There have been quite a lot of showdowns over the debt ceiling, a few of which have led to authorities shutdowns. The battle is normally between the White Home and Congress, and the debt ceiling is used as leverage to push budgetary agendas.

For instance, in 1995, the Republican members of Congress, whose views have been vocalized by then-Home Speaker Newt Gingrich, used the specter of refusing to permit a rise in the debt ceiling to barter elevated authorities spending cuts.

President Clinton refused to make the cuts, which led to a shutdown of the federal government. The White Home and Congress ultimately agreed on a balanced finances with modest spending cuts and tax will increase.

The U.S. debt exceeded $31.1 trillion in 2022. This was the primary time it topped the $30 trillion mark.

Debt Ceiling In the course of the Obama and Trump Administrations

President Obama confronted related points throughout his two phrases as president. Within the 2011 debt ceiling disaster, Republicans in Congress demanded deficit reductions to approve a rise within the debt ceiling. Throughout this time, U.S. Treasury debt was stripped of its triple-A ranking by Customary & Poor’s—a ranking it held for greater than 70 years.

In 2013, the federal government was shut down for 16 days after conservative Republicans tried to defund the Reasonably priced Care Act (ACA) by leveraging the debt ceiling. An settlement to droop the debt restrict was handed inside a day, which was when the Treasury was estimated to expire of cash.

The debt ceiling was raised once more in 2014, 2015, and early 2017. With U.S. debt exceeding $20 trillion for the primary time in September 2017, former President Trump signed a invoice extending the debt ceiling to Dec. 8, 2017. The ceiling was later suspended for 13 months as a part of a invoice enacted in February 2018. The ceiling got here into impact and was elevated once more in March 2019 when U.S. authorities debt topped $22 trillion.

In August 2019, former President Trump signed the Bipartisan Finances Act of 2019, which suspended the debt ceiling via July 31, 2021. The laws additionally lifted spending caps on federal company budgets, whereas guaranteeing that the federal government may pay its payments within the brief time period. Suspending the ceiling on this method eradicated the chance of default for one more two years, growing spending to $320 billion for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The debt ceiling was as soon as once more raised to $31.4 trillion in December of 2021.

What Is the Present Debt Ceiling?

The debt ceiling is $31.4 trillion, as of June 2022. It was raised to this degree below President Biden in 2021.

How Many Occasions Has the Debt Ceiling Been Raised?

In keeping with the U.S. Division of the Treasury, the debt ceiling has been raised, prolonged, or revised 78 separate occasions since 1960. This occurred 49 occasions below Republican presidents and 29 occasions below Democratic presidents.

What Occurs If the Debt Will get Too Excessive?

Hitting the debt restrict and failing to pay curiosity funds to bondholders would have grave financial penalties. America authorities can be in default, decreasing its credit standing and growing the price of its debt. This could throw the U.S. economic system right into a tailspin.

Is There a Restrict to the Nationwide Debt?

The debt ceiling is the restrict set on the quantity of debt the U.S. authorities is allowed to incur. As of June 2022, the U.S. nationwide debt was over $31 trillion and rising.

The Backside Line

The debt ceiling was created throughout World Struggle I with a purpose to regulate U.S. authorities spending and to maintain the U.S. authorities fiscally accountable. Since then, the debt ceiling has been raised or revised 78 occasions with a purpose to keep away from the potential for default and maintain the U.S. economic system working, with no indicators of Congress turning to different choices, regardless of questions over the debt ceiling’s effectiveness.