The statutory debt ceiling has been suspended since November 2015, meaning that there was no limit to how much debt the country could accumulate. That suspension ends Wednesday at midnight and the debt limit will be set at the amount of debt owed at that moment.
However, there will not be an immediate effect because the Treasury Department can undertake “extraordinary measures,” which are basically accounting maneuvers that prevent the limit from officially being breached. Those measures are expected to last until the fall.
The “extraordinary measures” aren’t so extraordinary anymore because they have been used many times in the last few years as policymakers try to avoid raising the debt limit. All these games around the debt ceiling show why Washington needs to fix the national debt.
Our handy primer offers answers to your basic questions about the debt limit.
What is the debt limit?
What happens if the debt ceiling is reached?
What happens if the U.S. defaults?
What should policymakers do?
How useful is the debt ceiling if the national debt keeps going up?
Is there a better way?
See a more detailed debt explainer.
National Debt and You