Debt ceiling 101: 12 questions about what's going on

The US Treasury has warned that as early as Oct. 17 it will no longer be able to cover all the government's rising financial obligations. Here’s your guide to the debt limit deadline and its implications.

3. How many times has Congress raised the debt ceiling?

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/File
Congress did raise the debt ceiling in 2011, but these folks weren't too happy.

An overall cap on federal debt has been in place since 1939, and Congress has raised it numerous times since then. The Treasury Department counts 78 times since 1960.

The initial limit prior to World War II, by the way, was $45 billion. That may sound small today but was a lot of money at the time – equal to about half of a year’s gross domestic product (GDP), the value of goods and services produced by the country.

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