Since 1980, the debt ceiling has been raised 42 times. Now, Congress must make a deal to raise the ceiling before Feb. 27, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said he will lose his ability to juggle the nation’s finances. This would be the sixth debt ceiling increase under Barack Obama. Bars indicate the debt each month of the year. Read related article.

Party in control

In trillions

The public debt limit was suspended between October and Feb. 7. The debt is currently 17.3 trillion.

Debt ceiling

National debt



Correction: An earlier version of this graphic misstated the controlling party in the Senate in some years. The error has been corrected.

SOURCES: Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Treasury.