The biggest unknown in Washington this year could be the debt ceiling.

Historically, markets have reacted negatively whenever lawmakers have risked raising the debt ceiling

This year's looming deadline, which analysts anticipate could occur sometime between the summer and fall of this year

may add even more pressure if it coincides with an economic downturn.

Some progressives are urging Congress to remove the debt ceiling together, but that's impossible for moderate Republicans

Meanwhile, hardline conservatives insist the nation should not raise the debt limit unless 

it makes significant cuts in the costs of entitlement programs. This fight would only intensify

if there were an economic downturn and if S&P threatened to downgrade the US's credit rating

which first happened during the last debt ceiling debacle in 2011.

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