By Vicki Needham - 11/19/10 01:15 AM EST
The question usually moves through Congress with broad agreement, mainly because the Treasury needs the leeway to pay its bills and maintain its credit rating to keep the U.S. and the global economy churning along.
The current debt limit is $14.3 trillion.
Without the increase, the Treasury will be unable to issue more debt and the economic fallout could be dramatic with panic in U.S. financial markets that would affect global trading.
"We'll have a lot of time over the coming months to discuss that issue and how we might move such an issue, but those conversations haven't started yet," said.
Several new Republican senators have said they would be willing to hold up an increase unless they can extract spending concessions from Democrats.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) also has said he won't vote for raising the debt ceiling unless it's combined with a plan to balance the budget, including returning to fiscal 2008 spending levels and repealing healthcare reform.