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How Close Is the U.S. to Hitting the Debt Ceiling? How Bad Would That Be?


Washington is gearing up for another big fight over whether to raise or suspend the nation’s debt limit, with Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warning last week that the United States will reach its existing borrowing cap of $31.4 trillion on Thursday.The United States borrows huge sums of money by selling Treasury bonds to investors across the globe and uses those funds to pay existing financial obligations, including military salaries, safety net benefits and interest on the national debt. Once the United States hits the cap, Treasury can use “extraordinary measures” — suspending some investments and exchanging different types of debt — to try to stay beneath the cap for as long as possible. But eventually, the United States will need to either borrow more money to pay its bills or stop making good on its financial obligations, including possibly defaulting on its debt.Responsibility for lif …

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