Congress could start voting as soon as today (Wednesday) on a measure designed to lift the federal debt ceiling and pave the way to fund agencies past the current December 11 expiration of a stopgap budget measure. There is no guarantee the measure will pass but the debt ceiling aspect at least needs attention almost immediately, since the government is projected to hit that limit next Tuesday; without some type of action, there would be an unprecedented default. While a default would not necessarily require agencies to cease some operations and put employees on unpaid status as happens in a funding lapse, there would be severe economic consequences, in particular if the Treasury did not make payments due on securities it issues. The House last week passed a measure to make sure the government does at least that, but that plan has not advanced farther. Instead, leaders have crafted a larger deal designed to raise the limit enough to last into 2017 while adding money to both the defense and domestic sides of the budget to clear the way for a separate budgetary measure covering the remainder of the current fiscal year. That most likely would come in the form of a catchall “continuing resolution,” which typically combines the regular appropriations bills that have advanced only partially in Congress.