It’s true! On May 16, 2013, the total public debt outstanding reached the statutory limit of $16.7 trillion, however a subsequent act of Congress had suspended the debt limit until May 19, 2013, by which it had grown to roughly $16.74 trillion. Since then however, it hasn’t meaningfully grown beyond that figure.
This really hasn’t caused much of any problem however, thanks to several factors that have increased the amount of money coming into and going out of the U.S. Treasury, including:
In addition, the U.S. Treasury is using its “extraordinary” measures for maintaining the national debt at its current level, in which it defers some payments and then only issues new debt securities to match the value of retiring debt securities.
The CBO provides more analysis here of the U.S. Treasury’s emergency methods. They estimate that the nation’s debt can be sustained at this level into October or November 2013.
Washington State Office of the Attorney General