There’s no actual debt ceiling right now.
The fiscal deal passed by Congress on Wednesday evening to re-open the government and get around the $16.4 trillion limit on borrowing doesn’t actually increase the debt limit. It just temporarily suspends enforcement of it.
That means Americans have no idea how much debt their government is going to rack up between now and Feb. 7, when the limits are supposed to go back into place and will have to be raised.
There is no dollar amount set for how much debt the government can accumulate between now and then. The suspension strategy was employed first earlier this year during previous fiscal battles in Congress.
Such tactics infuriate anti-government waste groups.
“Suspending the debt ceiling without a dollar amount is further proof that Congress is taking a major step backward in fiscal responsibility,” David Williams, the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, told TheDC on Thursday. “A real dollar figure is a constant reminder to taxpayers and Congress that the country is broke. This was done to hide the real debt from taxpayers.”
To critics, lawmakers have gotten away with allowing the country to rack up more debt and avoid the threat of default without actually voting for debt limit increase.
The conservative Heritage Foundation has criticized the practice as a “smokescreen.”
“Suspending the debt is less transparent to the American people. It allows Members of Congress to avoid debate on the specific dollar amount increase in the debt limit, making their vote politically much easier to cast,” the organization wrote in October. “A calendar date is not nearly as scary to constituents as a figure in the trillions of dollars.”