The trillion-dollar coin: Is it a solution to the debt ceiling drama — or a gimmick?

The move has been pitched as a way to help the federal government avoid a potential default and shutdown, but some experts say the idea is unrealistic

After raising the debt limit for decades, Republicans in recent years have leveraged it to enact spending cuts while also threatening government default. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

It sounds like the plot of a PG-13 political action movie: The United States might need a $1 trillion coin to save itself. But this week, the idea of minting one is once again being floated as a way around the federal debt-ceiling crisis to avert a possible default and the economic catastrophe that could ensue.

The U.S. government runs out of money to pay all of its bills on Oct. 18, according to the Treasury Department, and if Congress does not raise the debt limit — the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow — economists warn it could trigger a recession. Though lawmakers acknowledge the gravity of the situation, lawmakers have not come to agreement how to resolve the issue, with Republicans insisting that Democrats raise the debt limit using their narrow control of Congress.

One potential remedy is to have the U.S. Mint strike a $1 trillion platinum coin, an idea that first surfaced during another debt-ceiling debate in 2011 and gained traction among some left-leaning policy wonks. Even the White House briefly entertained the idea. Here’s what you need to know about this untested idea.