CNN's Ali Velshi always reminds us that raising the debt ceiling doesn't authorize any new spending. True. The critical element is paying the bills already due. But a portion of it probably does allow new spending already authorized, which is what some in the GOP want to focus on; they think (incorrectly) that is all that stops.
I think high school government teachers should ask test questions on the debt ceiling. The subject lends itself to tricky multiple choice, doesn't it. In fact, ask about it on Millionaire!
Update: Saturday, Jan. 19
The New York Times reports that the House GOP hardliners have "reversed themselves" and offered to extend the debt ceiling for several months, giving time to work out a long term budget, link here.