Congress must raise the debt ceiling before the end of February, and possibly sooner. If it doesn't, the United States risks defaulting on its payments to creditors.
That's the key takeaway from a <a href="http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/staff-paper/debt-limit">new report</a> released Tuesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
The group, an independent think tank, analyzed patterns in the Treasury Department's monthly cash flow and obligations to assess just how much time it has to continue paying the bills in full and on time if lawmakers don't raise the legal borrowing limit.
The debt ceiling is currently set at $16.394 trillion. By the end of last week, the debt subject to that limit had reached $16.268 trillion.