National Affairs: The Last Week

Lights burned far into the night and messengers scurried about like ants at a midsummer picnic as Congress hurried to adjourn. Then, into the usual closing-week crisis, President Eisenhower injected a red-hot issue: he asked Congress to raise the federal debt limit from $275 billion to $290 billion.

There was a reason for the sudden and anxious request. The federal debt stood at more than $272 billion—less than $3 billion under the ceiling set by Congress in 1946. Having inherited obligations to pay cash on delivery for huge quantities of goods and services ordered...

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