Terence P. Jeffrey | CNS News,
Approximately $25 million below the new legal limit.
The portion of the federal debt that is subject to a legal limit set by Congress plummeted by $56,758,000,000 on March 15 hitting its lowest level of 2017, according to the Daily Treasury Statement.
The debt was able to hit its legal limit—even on a day when it was plunging dramatically–because when the Republican Congress and President Barack Obama on Nov. 2, 2015 enacted the most recent legislation lifting the legal limit on the debt they did not actually set a new limit. Instead, they suspended the debt limit, which allowed the federal government to borrow money and run up new debt without any limit at all throughout the election year of 2016.
The “Bipartisan Budget Act” that the Republican Congress passed and Obama signed–one year before the 2016 election—included language saying that the existing law that imposed a limit on the federal debt “shall not apply for the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on March 15, 2017.”
Congress titled this section of the law the “Temporary Extension of the Public Debt Limit.”
It provided that when the “temporary extension” expired on March 15, 2017, the debt limit would be set again at whatever level it hit that day.
Ironically, according to the Daily Treasury Statement for March 15, 2017, the debt subject to the limit dropped by $56,758,000,000 on that day. As a consequence, the debt hit its new limit as the debt was dropping.
Even more ironically, after its precipitous drop on March 15, the debt hit its lowest level for calendar year 2017.
On Jan. 6, the federal debt subject to the legal limit hit its highest point of $19,941,890,000,000. On March 16, following the terms of the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Treasury set the new debt limit at exactly $19,808,772,381,624.74.
That means the new debt limit is more than $133 billion below the level the debt hit on Jan. 6.
Since the Daily Treasury Statement for March 15, the day the suspension of the debt limit expired, the Treasury has reported that the debt subject to the limit has closed every business day at $19,808,747,000,000—or about $25 million below the new legal limit.