20110324 national debt clock 18
The National Debt Clock is seen February 19, 2004. The clock has since been redesigned to accommodate more figures. - 

JEREMY HOBSON: Well, we're out of the woods on a government shutdown -- for now. After Friday's deal to cut $38 billion in federal spending for the rest of this fiscal year. Now -- we can all brace for a fight over the nation's debt ceiling: the legal limit on the amount of borrowing the federal government is allowed. We're expected to hit the ceiling as early as next month.

Marketplace's David Brancaccio reports.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: Congressional Republicans want more curbs on federal spending before they agree to raise the federal government's official credit limit. At a meeting this weekend in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire on the future of the financial system, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said even talk about defaulting is hazardous.

LAWRENCE SUMMERS: The United States not meeting its debt obligations for even a single nanosecond is like a child playing with matches in a room full of dynamite.

Currently, the law says the government cannot borrow more than $14.25 trillion. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, the resulting uncertainty could drive up interest rates for government and consumers. Every few years negotiations over the debt ceiling get down to the wire. The Treasury Department is working on a back-up plan that could delay the moment of reckoning until early July.

In Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, I'm David Brancaccio for Marketplace.

Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio