The Basics Behind the Debt Limit Debate: More Partisan than Practical?

by Marian Wang
ProPublica, May 17, 2011, 10:08 a.m.
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As you may have heard, the federal government hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit yesterday—something the Treasury has been warning Congress about for months. There are a lot of good explainers [1] out there about what this could mean. Some dig into what actions the Treasury might take [2]; others into the oh-so-exciting history of the debt limit [3].

We’ve waded through them and pulled what we found to be the clearest explanations not only of what the debt ceiling is [4] and how it works, but also the fundamentals of whether it’s necessary and why this debate may be more partisan than it is practical.

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