'Fiscal cliff'? 'Sequester'? Your guide to Congress's code language.

Congress knows what it means by terms such as 'fiscal cliff' or 'Simpson-Bowles,' but to many outside the Beltway they may as well be speaking Greek. Here's a translation of Washington's shorthand for budgetary issues now before the country – with each entry explained in 50 words or less.  

3. Debt limit

  • close
    President Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Aug. 2, 2011. The law included lifting the national debt ceiling.
    Pete Souza/The White House/REUTERS/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption

A cap Congress sets on how much total debt the US government can incur through borrowing, currently $16.394 trillion. Created by law in 1917 and altered 91 times since 1940, most recently in August 2011. Also known as the debt ceiling.

3 of 5