US Historical Debt Ceiling from 1917

The history of the United States debt ceiling deals with movements in the United States debt ceiling since it was created in 1917. Management of the United States public debt is an important part of the macroeconomics of the United States economy and finance system, and the debt ceiling is a limitation on the federal government’s ability to manage the economy and finance system. The debt ceiling is also a limitation on the federal government’s ability to finance government operations, and the failure of Congress to authorise an increase in the debt ceiling has resulted in crises, especially in recent years.

A statutorily imposed debt ceiling has been in effect since 1917 when the US Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act. Before 1917 there was no debt ceiling in force, but there were parliamentary procedural limitations on the amount of debt that could be issued by the government.

Except for about a year during 1835–1836, the United States has continuously had a fluctuating public debt since the US Constitution legally went into effect on March 4, 1789. Debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation led to the first yearly report on the amount of the debt ($75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791). The national debt, as expressed in absolute dollars, has increased under every presidential administration since Herbert Hoover.

 

Table of historical debt ceiling levels
Date Debt Ceiling
(billions of dollars)
Change in Debt Ceiling
(billions of dollars)
Statute
June 25, 1940 49
February 19, 1941 65 +16
March 28, 1942 125 +60
April 11, 1943 210 +85
June 9, 1944 260 +50
April 3, 1945 300 +40
June 26, 1946 275 −25
August 28, 1954 281 +6
July 9, 1956 275 −6
February 26, 1958 280 +5
September 2, 1958 288 +8
June 30, 1959 295 +7
June 30, 1960 293 −2
June 30, 1961 298 +5
July 1, 1962 308 +10
March 31, 1963 305 −3
June 25, 1963 300 −5
June 30, 1963 307 +7
August 31, 1963 309 +2
November 26, 1963 315 +6
June 29, 1964 324 +9
June 24, 1965 328 +4
June 24, 1966 330 +2
March 2, 1967 336 +6
June 30, 1967 358 +22
June 1, 1968 365 +7
April 7, 1969 377 +12
June 30, 1970 395 +18
March 17, 1971 430 +35
March 15, 1972 450 +20
October 27, 1972 465 +15
June 30, 1974 495 +30
February 19, 1975 577 +82
November 14, 1975 595 +18
March 15, 1976 627 +32
June 30, 1976 636 +9
September 30, 1976 682 +46
April 1, 1977 700 +18
October 4, 1977 752 +52
August 3, 1978 798 +46
April 2, 1979 830 +32
September 29, 1979 879 +49
June 28, 1980 925 +46
December 19, 1980 935 +10
February 7, 1981 985 +50
September 30, 1981 1,079 +94
June 28, 1982 1,143 +64
September 30, 1982 1,290 +147
May 26, 1983 1,389 +99 Pub. L. 98–34
November 21, 1983 1,490 +101 Pub. L. 98–161
May 25, 1984 1,520 +30
June 6, 1984 1,573 +53 Pub. L. 98–342
October 13, 1984 1,823 +250 Pub. L. 98–475
November 14, 1985 1,904 +81
December 12, 1985 2,079 +175 Pub. L. 99–177
August 21, 1986 2,111 +32 Pub. L. 99–384
October 21, 1986 2,300 +189
May 15, 1987 2,320 +20
August 10, 1987 2,352 +32
September 29, 1987 2,800 +448 Pub. L. 100–119
August 7, 1989 2,870 +70
November 8, 1989 3,123 +253 Pub. L. 101–140
August 9, 1990 3,195 +72
October 28, 1990 3,230 +35
November 5, 1990 4,145 +915 Pub. L. 101–508
April 6, 1993 4,370 +225
August 10, 1993 4,900 +530 Pub. L. 103–66
March 29, 1996 5,500 +600 Pub. L. 104–121 (text) (PDF)
August 5, 1997 5,950 +450 Pub. L. 105–33 (text) (PDF)
June 11, 2002 6,400 +450 Pub. L. 107–199 (text) (PDF)
May 27, 2003 7,384 +984 Pub. L. 108–24 (text) (PDF)
November 16, 2004 8,184 +800 Pub. L. 108–415 (text) (PDF)
March 20, 2006 8,965 +781 Pub. L. 109–182 (text) (PDF)
September 29, 2007 9,815 +850 Pub. L. 110–91 (text) (PDF)
June 5, 2008 10,615 +800 Pub. L. 110–289 (text) (PDF)
October 3, 2008 11,315 +700 Pub. L. 110–343 (text) (PDF)
February 17, 2009 12,104 +789 Pub. L. 111–5 (text) (PDF)
December 24, 2009 12,394 +290 Pub. L. 111–123 (text) (PDF)
February 12, 2010 14,294 +1,900 Pub. L. 111–139 (text) (PDF)
January 30, 2012 16,394 +2,100 Pub. L. 112–25 (text) (PDF)
February 4, 2013 Suspended
May 19, 2013 16,699 +305 Pub. L. 113–3 (text) (PDF)
October 17, 2013 Suspended
February 7, 2014 17,212
and auto-adjust
+213 Pub. L. 113–83 (text) (PDF)
March 15, 2015 18,113
End of auto adjust
+901 Pub. L. 113–83 (text) (PDF)
October 30, 2015 Suspended Pub. L. 114–74 (text) (PDF)
March 15, 2017 19,847 +1,734
September 30, 2017 Suspended Pub. L. 115–56 (text) (PDF)Pub. L. 115–123 (text) (PDF)
March 1, 2019 22,030 +2,183
August 2, 2019 Suspended Pub. L. 116–37 (text) (PDF)
July 31, 2021 28,500 +6,470
October 14, 2021 28,900 +480 Pub. L. 117–50 (text) (PDF)
December 16, 2021 31,400 +2,500 Pub. L. 117–73 (text) (PDF)

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