Definition of Debt Ceiling
By Dave Manuel
What is a "debt ceiling"? What is the current debt ceiling of the United States? What is the definition of a debt ceiling?
The concept is a debt ceiling is pretty simple.
A "debt ceiling" is the maximum amount of debt that a government can take on.
By law, the nation can not exceed its debt ceiling.
In order to spend past this ceiling, Congress must agree to raise it. When the debt ceiling is raised, the nation should, theoretically, reflect on its spending habits in order to see how it can prevent a quickening increase of its debt load.
As you can see on our debt ceiling history page, the nation's debt ceiling has been raised over 90 times since 1940, regardless of which party has been occupying the White House.
What happens when the nation hits its debt ceiling? The Treasury Department can utilize "extraordinary measures" to keep the federal government operating, usually for an additional month or two. If those extraordinary measures run out and the debt ceiling still hasn't been raised, the nation will very likely default on its debt obligations.
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