Title 31, U.S. Code (Selected)

31 USC 3101

Subtitle III—Financial Management

Chapter 31—Public Debt

§3101. Pubic debt limit. 

(a) In this section, the current redemption value of an obligation issued on a discount basis and redeemable before maturity at the option of its holder is deemed to be the face amount of the obligation.

(b) The face amount of obligations issued under this chapter and the face amount of obligations whose principal and interest are guaranteed by the United States Government (except guaranteed obligations held by the Secretary of the Treasury) may not be more than $14,294,000,000,000, outstanding at one time, subject to changes periodically made in that amount as provided by law through the congressional budget process described in Rule XLIX[1] of the Rules of the House of Representatives or as provided by section 3101A [2] or otherwise.

(c) For purposes of this section, the face amount, for any month, of any obligation issued on a discount basis that is not redeemable before maturity at the option of the holder of the obligation is an amount equal to the sum of-

(1) the original issue price of the obligation, plus

(2) the portion of the discount on the obligation attributable to periods before the beginning of such month (as determined under the principles of section 1272(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 without regard to any exceptions contained in paragraph (2) of such section).

Counsel Notes

[1] House Rule XLIX is a reference to the Gephardt Rule, which allowed the House to pass debt limit legislation without requiring a separate vote on the its initial consideration. The rule automatically sent a House Joint Resolution to the Senate changing the statutory limit on the public debt to match the level provided for in a congressional budget resolution upon its adoption.

[2] 37 U.S.C. 3101A was enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Pub. L. 112-25). It was part of the procedure put in place to increase the public debt limit in successive stages, while setting forth expedited procedures for a vote on a “disapproval bill” for the debt increases. The process also included an interrelated vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Public Law

This section has not been formally amended since 2010 by the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-139). The law has allowed more Federal borrowing since then have been by suspending the limit, or allowing specified additional amounts to be borrowed without formally amending the law. 

Temporary Debt Limit Extension 

Public laws suspended the limit as follows: 

Pub. L. 115–123: February 9, 2018 to March 1, 2019;
Pub. L. 115-56: September 8, 2017 to December 8, 2017;
Pub. L. 114–74: November 2, 2015 to March 15, 2017;
Pub. L. 113–83: February 15, 2014 to March 15, 2015;
Pub. L. 113–46: October 17, 2013 to February 7, 2014;
Pub. L. 113-3: February 4, 2013 to May 18, 2013.

Budget Control Act of 2010

The Budget Control Act of 2010 increased authorized Federal borrowing in three tranches and depending on certain circumstances: a presidential certification triggered a $400 billion increase. A second certification led to a $500 billion increase on September 22, 2011, and a third, $1.2 trillion increase took place on January 28, 2012.

Amendments Specifically Amending the debt limit

Though the public debt limit has been increased multiple times since 2011, since that time the procedures has been to suspend or otherwise change its application, such as allowing borrowing for a certain time period or for a specified amount, but without altering the specific amount that appears in subsection (b). 

2011: Pub. L. 112-25 substituted “or as provided by section 3101A or otherwise” for “or otherwise”.

2010: Pub. L. 111-139 substituted “$14,294,000,000,000” for “$12,394,000,000,000”.

2009: Pub. L. 111-123 substituted “$12,394,000,000,000” for “$12,104,000,000,000”.

2009: Pub. L. 111-5 substituted “$12,104,000,000,000” for “$11,315,000,000,000”.

2008: Pub. L. 110-343 substituted “$11,315,000,000,000” for “$10,615,000,000,000”.

2008: Pub. L. 110-289 substituted “$10,615,000,000,000” for “$9,815,000,000,000”.

2007: Pub. L. 110-91 substituted “$9,815,000,000,000” for “$8,965,000,000,000”.

2006: Pub. L. 109-182 substituted “$8,965,000,000,000” for “$8,184,000,000,000”.

2004: Pub. L. 108-415 substituted “$8,184,000,000,000” for “$7,384,000,000,000”.

2003: Pub. L. 108-24 substituted “$7,384,000,000,000” for “$6,400,000,000,000”.

2002: Pub. L. 107-199 substituted “$6,400,000,000,000” for “$5,950,000,000,000”.

1997: Pub. L. 105-33 substituted “$5,950,000,000,000” for “$5,500,000,000,000”.

1996: Pub. L. 104-121 substituted “$5,500,000,000,000” for “$4,900,000,000,000”.

1993: Pub. L. 103-66 substituted “$4,900,000,000,000” for “$4,145,000,000,000”.

1990: Pub. L. 101-508 substituted “$4,145,000,000,000” for “$3,122,700,000,000”.

1989: Pub. L. 101-140 substituted “$3,122,700,000,000” for “$2,800,000,000,000”.

1987: Pub. L. 100-119 substituted “$2,800,000,000,000” for “$2,111,000,000,000”.

1986: Pub. L. 99-384, which directed that subsection (b) be amended by “striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof ‘$2,111,000,000,000,’ ”, was executed by substituting “$2,111,000,000,000,” for “$1,847,800,000,000, or $2,078,700,000,000 on and after October 1, 1985,” as the probable intent of Congress.

1985: Pub. L. 99-177 substituted “$1,847,800,000,000, or $2,078,700,000,000 on and after October 1, 1985” for “$1,575,700,000,000, or $1,823,800,000,000 on and after October 1, 1984”.

1984: Pub. L. 98-475 substituted “$1,575,700,000,000, or $1,823,800,000,000 on and after October 1, 1984,” for “$1,573,000,000,000”.

1984: Pub. L. 98-342 substituted “$1,573,000,000,000” for “$1,389,000,000,000, or $1,490,000,000,000 on and after October 1, 1983,”.

1983: Pub. L. 98-161 inserted “, or $1,490,000,000,000 on and after October 1, 1983,” after “$1,389,000,000,000”.

1983: Pub. L. 98-34 substituted “$1,389,000,000,000” for “$400,000,000,000”.


Subtitle III of Title 31 (USC)


31 U.S.C. 3101A

[BCD § 343]