Statutory Debt Limit

DEFINITION of 'Statutory Debt Limit'

A debt limit established under the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 that limits the amount of public debt that can be outstanding. The Statutory Debt Limit, or debt ceiling, prevents the U.S. Treasury from issuing new debt once the limit has been reached. However, the debt limit can be raised, and has often been raised, with approval from the U.S. Congress.

BREAKING DOWN 'Statutory Debt Limit'

Often, Congress will approve increases to the statutory debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on its debt and to avoid suspension of government operations. During the financial crisis in 2009, the U.S. Congress raised the debt ceiling to $12.4 trillion, an increase of $290 billion.