CNN U.S. News

Stopgap, debt limit: What they mean

November 13, 1995
Web posted at: 11:55 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Here's a quick explanation of the terms being used as the government faces a partial shutdown:

"Stopgap measure" (or "continuing resolution"):

This term deals with temporary government authority to spend money. A stopgap measure is needed to cover expenses the government must pay right now while President Clinton and the Republican leadership in Congress wrangle over future spending. That includes the federal budget for fiscal year 1996, which began six weeks ago, on October 1. Short-term funding is needed because Congress has failed to pass nine of the 13 appropriations (spending) bills authorizing the government to spend money for fiscal 1996. Of the four spending bills that have been passed, only two (covering transportation and military construction) have been signed. Stopgap funding approved in September expires at midnight on Monday. Without another extension, the government is prohibited from spending money.

"Debt ceiling" (or "debt limit"):

This term deals with government authority to borrow money. A debt ceiling extension would give the U.S. Treasury Department additional borrowing authority once it reaches the current $4.9 trillion dollar debt limit. Without an extension, the U.S. government loses its ability to borrow money and to make interest payments due this week. That would put the U.S. government in default for the first time in its history. To avoid this, the Treasury Department on Monday scheduled securities auctions to raise money. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin also has said he might use cash from government-run retirement funds to prevent default.


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