Whenever Congress has a vote on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, its always because the US is right on the verge of meeting that borrowing limit, which is why when some idiots think it shouldnt be raised, everyone with a brain freaks out because the clock is about to hit midnight.
If god forbid the US decides to NOT raise the debt limit, then the US will careen into it and cause a sh**load of economic and budget problems that will only exacerbate the barely recovering US economy
Congress sets the budget that allows the United States to pay for different things. There should be no debt limit because Congress agrees to the budget. If we reach a theoretical 'debt limit' and don't raise it then we will default on a lot of our debts. Just like with a household budget.
It is simple. In 2014, we will run out of money to pay our bills. Bills that congress already passed. Bills that the president has no control over. The president must borrow money to pay these bills that congress has forced him to pay. But congress says " no, you have to pay the bills, but you cant borrow money to do it". This is stupid, and anyone who blames the president for it has no idea what his job is.
If we look at what happened recently with the 2013 "debt crisis" then there is a good chance that a party may find an issue to threaten default if they do not get their way. However, I hope that our congressmen and women would ultimately choose the reputation and financial security of the country they are sworn to serve. On the other hand, politicians can be pretty corrupt and I would not be surprised if there was some sort of issue on the debt limit come 2014.
The debt limit was set for a reason, and the reason wasn't to be raised EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU GET TO IT. America basically is going to default anyway. There's what, $17 trillion on the books, but if you count unfunded liabilities it's more like $50 or $100 trillion. These people are not capable of getting the budget balanced and start paying down the debt. As bigdave mentioned, interest payments are (thanks to a huge bond bubble and low interest rate environment) around 200-250 billion a year, and the government takes in like 10x that in taxes. There's no reason to actually default, it's just political rhetoric and gives them excuse to spend and borrow more. Sure they will have to make some huge cuts, but that would be a great thing in the long run. There'd be some short term pain but it would lead to lower taxes and more money being spent by private individuals on goods and services they actually want, rather than how politicians and bureaucrats think the money should be best spent.
Default is a technical economics term. No matter what those in Washington are telling you, here is the truth. Default only occurs if the Feds fail to pay debt service on Treasury notes. This bill is currently about 24 billion dollars per month. Federal revenue is about 200 billion dollars per month. Thus the Feds have plenty of revenue to stay out of default if they so choose. The real problem is that Federal spending is about 300 billion dollars per month - remember revenue is 200 billion. So the Feds want to raise the credit limit so they can overspend. I say let's not raise the debt, but force Washington to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities. Do we really have to fund the Cowboy Poetry Rodeo, or the CIA HQ nobody wanted?