It took a little more than 13 months for the debt to climb by $1 trillion. The national debt hit $18 trillion on Dec. 15, 2014.
That’s a slightly stepped-up pace compared to the last few $1 trillion mileposts. It took about 14 months for the debt to climb from $17 trillion to $18 trillion, and about the same amount of time to go from $16 trillion to $17 trillion.
The federal government has been free to borrow as much as needed for the last several years. Years ago, Congress passed legislation to increase the debt ceiling to a certain level of debt, and borrowing had to stop once that limit was hit.
But increasingly, Congress has instead allowed more borrowing by suspending the debt ceiling for long periods of time. That allows the government to borrow any amount it needs until the suspension period ends.
Back in November, the debt ceiling was suspended again, after having been frozen at $18.1 trillion for several months. As soon as it was suspended, months of pent-up borrowing demand by the government led to a $339 billion jump in the national debt in a single day.
Under current law, the debt ceiling is suspended until March, 2017, meaning the government can borrow without limit until then. Obama is expected to leave office with a total national debt of nearly $20 trillion by the time he leaves office.