The U.S. national debt has reached nearly $17.3 trillion. When the Treasury’s blank-check borrowing authority expired at midnight last night, the U.S. officially hit its debt limit.

What most people failed to realize is that the U.S. government has operated since October with no debt limit in place.

That’s right. Congress never raised the debt limit—it “suspended” it. Simply put, Congress made the debt limit go away until February 8, 2014.

This is not the first time that Congress has rendered the debt limit inoperative. It first suspended the debt limit in January 2013. Since then, the Treasury has borrowed nearly $900 billion.

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