Deeper In Debt: Congress Moves National Limit to $12.4 Trillion

The national debt limit—as distinct from the federal deficit—was increased to $12.4 trillion this morning, right after the Senate voted to pass a landmark health care bill. The health care bill has to be merged with a House version, but the debt bill will go straight to the President, as it was passed by the House last week:

The Senate voted Thursday to raise the ceiling on the government debt to $12.4 trillion, a massive increase over the current limit and a political problem that President Barack Obama has promised to address next year.

The Senate’s rare Christmas Eve vote, 60-39, follows House passage last week and raises the debt ceiling by $290 billion… The bill permits the Treasury Department to issue enough bonds to fund the government’s operations and programs until mid-February. The Senate will vote again on the issue Jan. 20.

Obama must sign the measure into law to prevent a market-rattling, first-ever default on U.S. obligations. The government piled up a record $1.4 trillion deficit in 2009 to counter a meltdown in financial markets and help bring the nation out of its worst recession in seven decades.

Read the whole AP story here.