The U.S. Congress as professional wrestling puts on a show about the federal government’s public debt limit

Brace yourself. Section 401(a)–

“Sec. 401. Temporary Extension of Public Debt Limit.
(a) In General. — Section 3101(b) of title 31, United States Code, shall not apply for the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on January 1, 2025″.

Wait a minute. No specific dollar limit on federal public debt, or how much it can be raised, beginning on the day when this law passes (if it does), and ending on 1 January 2025? The ending day is even more of a con — it is after the 2024 general election for a president and some members of Congress!

We should now look at the section of the United States Code that “shall not apply” for a debt limit [2].

“Section 3101. Public 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 [See Editorial Notes: References in Text] of the Rules of the House of Representatives or as provided by section 3101A or otherwise.”

This law in the U.S. Code sets the debt limit at $14.294 trillion dollars. But the Treasury Department says that as of 26 May 2023, the debt held by the public is $24,635,928,951,197.20, and the total public debt outstanding (including intragovernmental holdings) is $31,464,942,311,540.05. That is a lot more than $14.294 trillion [3].

How did that happen? To figure it out, we need to scroll down the Internet webpage of Title 31, section 3101 into the editorial notes, because 3101 was last amended on 2 August 2011, during former president Barack Obama’s first administration.

Under “statutory notes and related subsidiaries”, below the list of amendments to 3101 from 1983 to 2011, we see “temporary debt limit extension”. That label tells us about raises in the debt limit from 16 December 2021 down to 15 February 2014. Then, scrolling down further, we come to a different name, “default prevention”, which is for 17 October 2013. Below that is another name, “temporary suspension of debt ceiling”, for 4 February 2013. Each one of these changes was done by a Public Law passed by Congress, but they did not become a formal amendment to Title 31, section 3101, of the U.S. Code.

Thus, to find out what your “representatives” in Congress are doing with the so-called public debt limit, you have to look for laws that were not incorporated into the U.S. Code after they were passed and signed as a Public Law.

Some people might say that what are claimed to be spending limits for some items in the bill will restrict the debt ceiling from going above a specific amount. But I have not seen anyone prove it by specific numbers, language in the bill and in other federal law, and under Congressional rules of procedure. And there are no words in section 401 that in any way restrict a rise in the public debt.

You can now see what a huge scam this is.

The word at the present time is that a final vote on whether the bill will pass is set for around 8:00 p.m. eastern time tonight, 31 May 2023.

[1] House Resolution 3746, filed on 29 May 2023.

[2] Title 31, U.S. Code, section 3101.


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14 Responses to The U.S. Congress as professional wrestling puts on a show about the federal government’s public debt limit

  1. Sam says:

    Politics in America is theater. The voters in addition to being entertained can also get in the ring and fight their opponents with passion. Meanwhile the ruling class laugh not only all the way to the bank but at the voters for being such easy marks. No matter the depredations, the American voter consistently votes for the UniParty – Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
      Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
      All the king’s homosexuals, lesbians, transexuals and non-binaries,
      (Including everyone else),
      Were not able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
      Our 2023 award and first prize goes to Elgard Highstreet Mystery Man for his solution to last week’s word puzzle.

      Yes, Elgard, non-binary does spell non-brainy. Congratulations!

  2. TTG says:

    My cursory understanding is that this deal largely neuters any effort this year and next year to hold the budget process hostage to a threatened government shutdown. I read it as saying that without an approved budget, government spending will continue at 1% below the previous year’s budget. In other words, status quo until well after the next presidential election. Am I reading that right?

    • Whitewall says:

      Seems like it. This is only -supposedly- to be a way to raise the debt ceiling with trimmings. The annual budget fight extravaganza is to come later this year. I predict a fast budget CR to get us to the fall of 2024. By then all this debt ceiling stuff will be forgotten.

  3. Fred says:

    The last thing the uni-party wants is a discussion of US Government spending during an election year. McCarthy may just wind up not being speaker over this one.

  4. Fourth and Long says:

    “The U.S. Congress as professional wrestling puts on a show about the federal government’s public debt limit”

    On the whole an excellent article.

    The only error I was able to find was the misspelling of the word “unprofessional.”

  5. Lars says:

    The bigger question is why the Republicans, who claim that Biden is senile, keep getting outsmarted by him? It could have something to do with the GOP not being interested in governing and spending their efforts in the echo chamber that Fox News is.

    • Fred says:


      The Democrats don’t actually control the Senate and all Cabinet posts and are thus not actually responsible for spending, they have no agency; so don’t discuss their policies and conduct. No not that.

      • Lars says:

        You may want to take a closer look at reality, which should tell you that Biden is outsmarting the R’s over and over.

        • Fred says:


          Spend spend spend. Debt and debt servicing does not matter. Just like with mortgages and credit cards.

    • TV says:

      No matter how senile Joe dementia is, the Republicans are still “the stupid party.”

  6. Whitewall says:

    “Americans like to talk about (or be told about) Democracy but, when put to the test, usually find it to be an ‘inconvenience.’ We have opted instead for an authoritarian system disguised as a Democracy. We pay through the nose for an enormous joke-of-a-government, let it push us around, and then wonder how all those assholes got in there.”

    Frank Zappa

    • blue peacock says:


      None of this is new. All one needs to look at is the chart for Total Credit Market debt as a ratio to GDP. The inflection point can clearly be seen in the 70s. And as the Church committee noted our national security apparatus were breaking laws with impunity again back in the 70s. We’ll continue to increase the borrowing from future generations for current consumption including all the boondoggles.

      Covidianism demonstrated how easy it is for our government to get Americans to get hysterical with fear and clamor for every tiny vestige of liberty remaining to be stripped.

      As Pogo said, we’ve met the enemy and it is us. Yes, the American voter & citizen, who can’t be bothered with accepting the responsibilities of sovereignty and are happy to be pawns in the machinations of the ruling class including fighting amongst each other on the basis of partisan and narrow interest group affiliation.

  7. Mr. Willmann: Here is one hairy case:

    I submit it to you for your consideration, and possible intellectual interest.
    I note the plaintiff in the case, Karl E. Nell, is noteworthy because he also plays a significant role in this story:

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