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House lifts debt ceiling. What does it mean?

David Gura Feb 12, 2014
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The House of Representatives voted 211-201 to pass an increase to the government’s borrowing limit. Here’s what you need to know.

What happened? We officially hit the debt ceiling a few days ago, and since then the Treasury has been moving money among accounts to keep the country solvent. Those “extraordinary measures” could hold us over until about Feb. 27, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. After that, the U.S. might not be able to pay bills it already incurred. The House is going on a recess tomorrow, and with a snowstorm heading to Washington, lawmakers decided they wouldn’t wait until that deadline.

What did not happen? There had been talk of attaching strings to an increase – everything from administration approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project, to changes to the Affordable Care Act, to rolling back changes to military pensions that were part of a budget deal in December. None of those strings was attached.

What does it mean? So long as the bill passes the Senate, the U.S. will continue to pay its bills until March 2015, which is only 13 months away but is a long time in the cadence of Washington.