ABSTRACT

Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases [January 20, 2012]   [open pdf - 1MB]

"On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; S. 365; P.L. 112-25), after an extended debt limit episode. The federal debt had reached its legal limit on May 16, 2011, prompting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to declare a debt issuance suspension period, allowing certain extraordinary measures to extend Treasury's borrowing capacity. The BCA included provisions aimed at deficit reduction and allowing the debt limit to rise between $2,100 billion and $2,400 billion in three stages, the latter two subject to congressional disapproval. Once the BCA was enacted, a presidential certification triggered a $400 billion increase, raising the debt limit to $14,694 billion. That certification also triggered a second $500 billion increase on September 22, 2011, as a disapproval measure (H.J.Res. 77) only passed the House. A January 12, 2012, presidential certification will trigger a third, $1.2 trillion, increase after 15 days unless a disapproval measure, which would be subject to veto, were enacted. On January 18, 2012, the House passed such a measure (H.J.Res. 98) on a 239-176 vote. [...] The recent economic slowdown led to sharply higher deficits in recent years, which led to a series of debt limit increases. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (H.R. 3221), signed into law (P.L. 110-289) on July 30, 2008, included a debt limit increase. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), signed into law on October 3 (P.L. 110-343), raised the debt limit again. The debt limit rose a third time in less than a year to $12,104 billion with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 13, 2009 (ARRA; H.R. 1), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009 (P.L. 111-5). Following this measure, the debt limit was subsequently increased by $290 billion to $12,394 billion (P.L. 111-123) in a stand-alone debt limit bill on December 28, 2009, and by $1.9 trillion to $14,294 billion on February 12, 2010 (P.L. 111-139), as part of a package that also contained the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31967
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Date:
2012-01-20
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Public Domain
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