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Featured Op/Ed

When Debt-Ceiling Politics Was Bipartisan

By Stephen Mihm

The Ticker Blog, Bloomberg View

US Capitol BuildingPresident Barack Obama is hardly the first president forced to play debt-ceiling politics.

The debt ceiling is a cap on the amount of total debt the U.S. government can incur to pay the country's bills. Before the 20th century, there was no ceiling on the total amount of debt. Instead, Congress set limits on the amount of debt the Treasury could borrow for discrete purposes: a war or a public-works project. Congress also set limits on the kinds of debt the Treasury could issue for any given purpose (for example, short-term borrowing versus long-term bonds). 

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