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The rising federal debt limit

Congress has adjusted the statutory limit on total federal government debt 95 times since 1940, nearly all of them increases. The limit has risen sharply in recent years as the Great Recession and its aftermath reduced revenue while government spending has increased.

U.S. debt ceiling, 1940-2015 (in trillions)

Read full story: As debt limit deadline nears, Lew worries about 'terrible' accident

20

2014: $18.1 trillion

15

10

Denotes

recession

5

1940: $4.9 billion

0

'40

'50

'60

'70

'80

'90

'00

'10

SENATE MAJORITY

HOUSE MAJORITY

*Majority switched three times between Democrats and Republicans from 2001 to 2002.

Source: White House Office of Management and Budget

Government debt and GDP

Total U.S. debt exceeded the nation’s gross domestic product, or total economic output, last year.

U.S. government debt

(In trillions)

2015*:

$18.1

 

$20

16

12

1996:

$5.1

 

8

4

0

'96

'00

'03

'06

'09

'12

'15



Debt as percentage of GDP

120%

90

2015*:

101%

 

1996:

63%

 

60

30

0

'96

'00

'03

'06

'09

'12

'15

*As of June 30

Sources: Congressional Research Service

Major upcoming federal government bills

Oct. 21

Social Security $13.7 billion
Marketplace payments $3.7 billion

Oct. 23

Federal salaries $3.2 billion

Oct. 26

Federal salaries $1.4 billion

Oct. 28

Social Security $14 billion

Oct. 30

Medicare $25.8 billion
Interest $5.8 billion
Veterans benefits $5.4 billion
Supplemental Security Income $4.2 billion
Military pay and benefits $7.6 billion

Nov. 3

Social Security $25.1 billion
Civil Service Retirement $5.3 billion
HUD programs $2.7 billion

Nov. 6

Federal salaries $3.1 billion

Nov. 9

Federal salaries $1.6 billion

Nov. 10

Social Security $14 billion

Nov. 16

Interest $30.4 billion
Military pay $2.7 billion

Nov. 18

Social Security $13.8 billion

Nov. 20

Federal salaries $3.2 billion

Nov. 20

Federal salaries $1.5 billion

Nov. 25

Social Security $15 billion
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