The debt limit, set by law, restricts the total amount of money that the federal government can legally borrow. When the debt limit is reached, the Treasury Department can no longer borrow money to cover government operations. It can temporarily draw on “extraordinary measures”—accounting maneuvers that can allow the government to continue standard operations for a limited period.
Once those extraordinary measures and the Treasury’s cash reserves run out, the federal government would reach the “X Date”—the day on which the U.S. government is unable to meet all its obligations in full and on time. This unprecedented event would likely have catastrophic consequences for financial markets and Americans throughout the country.
In August 2019, policymakers enacted a bipartisan budget deal that raised spending levels and suspended the debt limit for two years. On August 1, 2021, the debt limit will be reinstated at a level covering all borrowing that occurred during the suspension.
Absent action by Congress, BPC projects that the X Date will arrive sometime in late summer or early fall.
For many years, BPC experts have been leading voices in debt limit analysis. Review our previous projections, analyses, and reports.
September 5: Harvey Raises Stakes on Debt Limit Debate
August 31: The Debt Limit Through the Years
August 24: 2017 Debt Limit Analysis
February 7: Recent History of the Debt Limit
September 13: Debt Limit Brinksmanship Threatens to Return Next Year
U.S. Government Accountability Office: Market Response to Recent Impasses Underscores Need to Consider Alternative Approaches
January 9: Extraordinary Measures, Simplified
December 19: Late Start to Tax Filing Season Affects X Date
November 21: Thoughts on CBO’s New Debt Limit Report
November 21: Debt Limit Suspension: Frequently Asked Questions
September 25: Debt Limit Update: No Change to BPC X Date Projection
September 10: BPC’s Debt Limit Projection: Key Takeaways
January 30: When Will the Next Debt Limit X Date Be?
January 24: Fiscal Timeline Under Passage of H.R. 325
January 16: What Is a Government Default on its Debt?
January 16: Platinum Coins and IOUs: Missing the Point
January 16: Debt Limit Analysis Update
January 11: BPC’s Debt Limit Projection: Key Takeaways