Debt Limit Explainer

FILE - President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as he departs the Capitol following the annual St. Patrick's Day gathering, in Washington, March 17, 2023. Facing the risk of a federal government default as soon as June 1, President Joe Biden has invited the top four congressional leaders to a White House meeting on May 9 for talks. It’s the first concrete step toward negotiations on averting a potential economic catastrophe, but there’s a long way to go: Biden and Republicans can’t even agree on what’s up for negotiation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON — All the hand-wringing in Washington over raising the debt limit can seem far removed from the lives of everyday Americans, but they could end up facing huge consequences.

Millions of people in the U.S. rely on benefits that could go unpaid and services that could be disrupted, or halted altogether, if the government can't pay its bills for an extended period.