Bloomberg by the Numbers: $17.1 Trillion

Photograph by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

A jogger runs past the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

That’s the approximate current federal debt subject to limit.

At the moment, there’s no statutory limit on new federal debt because a measure President Barack Obama signed into law Oct. 17 suspended the $16.7 trillion limit through Feb. 7.

The day after, the debt limit “will be reset to reflect cumulative borrowing,” the Congressional Research Office said in a report yesterday.

If Congress and Obama fail to agree on a debt-limit compromise before Feb. 7, the Treasury Department will have to employ so-called extraordinary measures to extend its borrowing authority.

The Treasury Department used extraordinary measures in the first five weeks of this year, before a February law suspended the debt-limit until May 19, and again from then until Oct. 17, when Obama signed legislation that ended a fiscal impasse.

It’s too soon to say when Treasury would have to use those measures next year in the absence of a debt-limit accord.

“By CBO’s estimate, the Treasury might be unable to fully pay its obligations starting in March, but depending on the timing and magnitude of tax refunds and receipts in February, March, and April, the Treasury might be able to continue borrowing into May or early June,” the CBO report said.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council conference Nov. 19 in Washington, urged Congress to raise the debt limit “well in advance” of Feb. 7, Bloomberg’s Kasia Klimasinska and Ian Katz reported.

For more on the CBO report and the debt limit, see Richard Rubin’s story here.

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