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CNBC Explains: The debt ceiling

With the world watching in disbelief, the U.S. is just hours away from a deadline to raise the debt ceiling as the partial government shutdown begins Day 16.

Financial markets are waiting to see if an 11th hour deal lead by the Senate can be struck to avert default.

(Read more: Buffett: Debt limit is 'political weapon of mass destruction')


The U.S. Capitol Building
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The U.S. Capitol Building

Fifty-one percent of Americans believe raising the debt limit by Thursday is "absolutely essential to avoid economic crisis," according to a new Pew Research Center poll even as other polls show most Americans do not even understand how the debt ceiling works.

In this CNBC Explains, CNBC's Economic Reporter Steve Liesman explains the debt ceiling.

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