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 was reinstated at approximately $28.4 trillion, a level covering all borrowing that occurred during the suspension. On October 14, 2021, President Biden signed legislation raising the debt limit by $480 billion to approximately $28.9 trillion. On December 16, 2021, President Biden signed legislation that raised the debt limit by $2.5 trillion, to approximately $31.4 trillion. This action likely ensures that the federal government will be able to meet its financial obligations through at least the end of 2022, resolving the most recent debt limit standoff.
2021 Debt Limit Analysis
Congress, Stop the Debt Limit Madness
BPC Projects Debt Limit "X Date" Could Be Just Weeks Away; Underscores Need for Action Before End of Congressional Session
BPC Updates Debt Limit “X Date” Timing: Could Arrive as Soon as Mid-December
BPC Releases New Debt Limit “X Date” Projection: Likely to Arrive Between Mid-December and Mid-February
Behind BPC’s X Date Range
BPC Narrows Debt Limit "X Date" Range; Treasury Could Miss Payments in Less Than Two Weeks
The Costs of Crossing the Debt Limit “X Date”
BPC Updates Debt Limit “X Date” Projection: Likely to Arrive Between October 15 and November 4
Debt Limit Analysis: Everything You Need to Know in 40 Slides
Prioritization: What Comes After the Debt Limit “X Date”?
BPC Narrows Debt Limit “X Date” Range to Mid-October Through Mid-November
BPC Warns Debt Limit “X Date” Will Be Especially Difficult to Forecast
The Federal Debt Limit: Crunch Time
The Debt Limit: What You Need to Know
Recent History of the Debt Limit
Federal Debt Limit Myths vs. Facts
The Debt Limit Through the Years
Extraordinary Measures, Simplified
It’s Time to Rethink the Debt Limit
For many years, BPC experts have been leading voices in debt limit analysis. Review our previous projections, analyses, and reports.
September 24: 2021 Debt Limit Analysis
January 5: It’s Time to Rethink the Debt Limit
January 5: The Debt Limit: What You Need to Know
January 5: Recent History of the Debt Limit
January 5: Extraordinary Measures, Simplified
January 2: Federal Debt Limit Myths vs. Facts
September 5: Harvey Raises Stakes on Debt Limit Debate
August 31: The Debt Limit Through the Years
August 23: 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
Support Research Like This
With your support, BPC can continue to fund important research like this by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans.Donate Now