CNN news 2017-05-22

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I would like us to raise the debt ceiling sooner rather than later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fair enough for me.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: On the subject of the debt ceiling, this shouldn't even be a question.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I happen to think that debt ceiling is a good thing. A lot of people don't think we should have a debt ceiling.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, cnn CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: oh, the debt ceiling, the eternal Washington food fight. So, what is it? And why is it so contentious?

The debt ceiling is the legal limit set by Congress on how much money American can borrow.

Because the U.S. spends more money than it takes in, it must borrow to make up the difference. The debt ceiling caps how much. The problem is, it's not enough. So, every once in a while, the country needs to raise it. If it doesn't, the Treasury Department won't be able to pay all of its bills in full and on time.

Now, the Treasury does have a little wiggle room before it gets to that point, something it calls "extraordinary measures" to move money around.

But eventually, the accounting tricks run out and there's no more avoiding the debt ceiling. That's usually when the fireworks break out.

AZUZ: Those extraordinary measures she mentioned are being utilized right now. The debt ceiling or limit is currently set at $19.81 trillion. The U.S. national debt is now $19.88 trillion and counting. In fact, since you saw come back on your screen, it's increased by about $215,000.

It's up to Congress to decide whether to raise the debt ceiling and allow the government to keep borrowing money. Experts say the extraordinary measures in place will allow the Treasury Department to essentially move money around until this fall when actual consequences would hit if the limit isn't raise.